Dear visitor, if you take the trouble to read : I apologize for all the bad, syrup-thick blog prose here. Man is it bad, so much of it. I wish hereby to take responsibility and express regret for many wrongs committed by keyboard. — pdb
That’s Poe in full smirk, ‘How to Write a Blackwood Article’ — parody it might have done me good to come across sooner than I did, some years back now.
Quare id faciam I pulled from one of Catullus’ better-known little verses, encountered in low-level Latin courses in college. Embarrassing, yes, that I borrowed it in the first place (albeit without much pretension; just liked the excised snippet for itself) twenty-odd years ago. More embarrassing that I’m kind of using it as a handle still !
Well, I’m kind of attached to it still — what can I say? Not every dumb thing you do when young has to be repudiated utterly.
brief items( see all )
Listening some this week to this recent talk for non-academic audience by Sarah Hammerschlag, professor of religion & literature at the divinity school of note down the street. I’m listening not because I know about Levinas and broader ‘continental thought’ but because, on the whole, I don’t.
Goes together well with Sam Aronow’s history series as developed over the course of this year, roughly — the episode I mention in a longer post a few weeks ago with the rest covering Europe and the challenges of Jewish emancipation in wider Enlightenment, revolution and nationalism contexts. There’s good food for thought, here in Hammerschlag’s snapshot of Levinas in address to Paris Colloques colleagues in the ’60s, about what persists and what doesn’t, what the turn comes to, in the move from the latter part of the nineteenth century to the latter part of the twentieth in European / Western societies.
I’m afraid I generally haven’t found Mike Mignola very interesting on the subject of his own work when I’ve had occasion to read an interview or listen to him talk a bit. It’s a while since I’ve bothered. And I guess the Cartoonist Kayfabe fellas’ chats with comics personalities only have much appeal for me, for various reasons, maybe half the time. As soon as I noticed it, however, this episode with Mignola as guest, run last week, struck me as a promising thing, and in retrospect I can say I don’t think the time taken with it at all a waste. It’s not that he’s really more articulate or penetrating, talking here, than he ever seems to me in address to what he does and to this oddly compelling modest edifice of story material accumulated around the Hellboy character over 25 + years. It’s just that he’s very much at ease with these guys, I expect, and that the conversation maintains good energy wherever it wanders. Together — for the listener who has a degree of familiarity with the territory, at least — they pull off something nicely filled-out and thoughtful.
My slow-progress dwelling on liberal and fascist ways of understanding and producing social / political order in connection with each other has found some juice lately with a series of short online lectures, a public-access version of an ‘American Ideologies’ course for undergrads, given by Pepperdine political philosophy prof. Jason Blakely.
Blakely is visible in circles of my acquaintance in part by way of his criticism of figures of the ‘national conservatism’ gaining notice in the last few years alongside Trump’s rise — as for example in an Oct. 2020 article for Commonweal, ‘The Integralism of Adrian Vermeule,’ where among other things he remarks on Vermeule’s appeals to Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt.
One thing Blakely’s about in this course is introducing the case for, and offering illustration of, an approach to the political drawn from the school of thought he identifies as his own philosophical home, known as hermeneutics — a school strongly associated, it has to be noted, with another Nazi, Martin Heidegger. The Nazis are always close at hand for us, I reflect (with no strong conclusion) in a longer post last year; no running or hiding from them, only confronting. That isn’t Blakely’s subject in these talks, but I would say that calling one another to courage to meet pasts full of ominous meaning is the spirit, at least, of his guidance through a catalog of perhaps falsely familiar terms for speaking of political existences in the modern period. It’s helpful material, prompting rather than settling questions.
Learned last night, courtesy of social-platform feed and a 2-min. CBS news bit from a couple of years ago, below, of the curious fact of the survival deep into the 21st century of grandchildren of John Tyler, single-term U.S. president in the first half of the 1840s. As of this summer, according to Wikipedia, the last of these grandchildren remains with us. His brother died last year, age 95.
Under Tyler, John C. Calhoun — about whose large unwholesome presence in the national life I posted brief items in March and May — held the second top-level federal appointment of his political career, as Secretary of State.
Anyhow, nice occasion for dwelling on something frequently on my mind, expressed in longer posts e.g. last October and in January: our tendency to think of events a century or two removed from the current moment as more distant than probably they really ought to be perceived. Here you have the whole timeframe of existence of the U.S. as a state, from the year after ratification took effect right to present, described in three-lifespan generational sequence within a single family.
Sometime earlier this year the YouTube algorithm plied me with an item from a channel devoted (mostly) to a two-years-running series of short presentations stepping through Jewish history, survey-style, by Sam Aronow, a youngish American-Israeli. I got hooked with the middle ages (Muslim Iberia particularly) and have since listened to all the entries added so far, just jumping around in the timeline a bit according to whim. The pieces get better (which is partly to say longer, the longest at nearly half an hour now) as he’s built the series.
Aronow’s merely whetted my appetite, I guess. Waiting for his next to drop, not long ago, I got to looking for something else in similar vein and was happy to find a channel maintained by an historian at what looks like the top of the arc of a very productive career, Henry Abramson, featuring (alongside other series and a lot of one-offs) a series he names ‘Jewish History Lab,’ covering much the same ground Aronow’s does. In this case, I’ve started at number one and am working through them in order.
Differences between the two men’s perspectives are good for some reflection. Aronow is non-religious and regards Israel, his adopted home, with some ambivalence; he’s moved evidently by fascination with the breadth and peculiar connective-tissue tenacity in a collective Jewish experience diversely realized across centuries and continents. He’s an advocate speaking from strong sense of ethnic identity, certainly, but one conscious, at the same time, of inviting viewers along on a personal journey without clear destination. I find that appealing. Abramson is more straightforwardly a believer, it seems fair to say, as both a religious person and someone committed, from the position of North-American-diaspora and academic-profession security, to an idea of the importance of a somewhat linearly unfolding story of Jewish culture and thought. For me this feels familiar and accessible, which reflects perhaps my relative closeness to Abramson generationally as much as the conservatism of my background.
Both combine passionateness for their subject with caution, a pluralist sensitivity to the difficulties taking it up in public dialogue in our era of shaky Western-Christian world dominance entails.
Hop down to items in latter part of this post if you prefer: Sam Aronow, ‘Jewish History’ episode on Moses Hess Bruce Gordon, course lectures on early modern Christianity, Yale Divinity Alan Brinkley, Rick Perlstein, Jackson Lears, Michael Kazin on Henry Luce’s journalism Federico Finchelstein on memory, history, and the …
now on 1 of 11 pages