Coleridge’s famous definition of the imagination in his Biographia Literaria rejects John Locke’s understanding of the mind as a tabula rasa, a blank slate upon which experience impresses, though we find the empiricist view extending back to classical thought (see Plato’s Theaetetus and Aristotle’s De Anima). Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) supposes that the mind is a “white paper void of all characters, without any ideas,” a passive slate void of agency or a priori knowledge until acted upon by the external world. Coleridge, who was an increasingly Christian Neoplatonist, abhorred Locke’s static conception of the mind and attributed the decline in English philosophy and theology to the popularity of empiricist modes of thinking.
It’s been a half century since the publication of Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order. 1 The book was written by the American Marxist economists Paul Baran and Paul Swezy. Monopoly Capital advances a trenchant critique of advanced industrial capitalism. Still salient, the book remains important for romanticists invested both in the Marxist tradition in critical theory, and the project of tracing the eighteenth-century British origins of contemporary constellations of global capitalist political economy. In this post, I return to Monopoly Capital, trace the text’s key contours, and argue for both its importance for understanding aspects of the contemporary ecological predicament, and the need to update Baran and Swezy’s ideas according to the concept of “disaster capitalism.” 2
In general, I was floored (and, to be honest, a little intellectually intimidated) by the pedagogical innovations on display yesterday. And while Wolff was unfortunately unable to present, I was excited that the remaining panelists and audience would have plenty of time for the presentations plus a vibrant lengthy Q&A discussion session to round off the entire conference. Here’s more:
In October, I found myself facing a new problem in the interpretation of music, with broader implications for the engagement and understanding of the arts generally. It has taken this long to begin to work it out. Then, I saw the contemporary indie electronica group ODESZA. The show was amazing. Yet, it yielded a profound sense of vertigo, the kind we all sense, and become been sensitized to, in romantic poetry. How do we contend with art when the aesthetic object–traditionally understood–radically recedes from view?
On a recent visit to the Chazen Art Museum located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus I stumbled across a literal cabinet of curiosities. Sculptor Martha Glowacki’s mixed media sculpture titled “My Arcadia”, composed in 2000 [pictured below] is an eerie dark wood Victorian inspired cabinet of fifteen drawers and opening at the top that holds three plants preserved in smoky graphite. Viewers are welcomed to open each drawer, and when they do they might react on a scale of disgust to delight in seconds. Continue reading “My Arcadia” and Romantic Creation in America’s Midwest→
This is a sketch I did a number of years ago. It was published originally on my blog White Tower Musings, but I wanted to share it since it was inspired by one of the most, possibly overused but still brilliant poems, Ozymandias by Percy Shelley.
The poem has always been one of my favorites because of its ability to really convey the ephemeral nature of Mankind’s creations. Men build egos and empires, and in the end it all fades. Nature is the only force that lasts.
As a writer of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien hardly needs an introduction. Even before the success of the film adaptations of his work turned Tolkien into a household name, he had won first the hearts of children with The Hobbit in 1937 and, some twenty years later, the hearts and minds of adult readers with The Lord of the Rings. But, like Coleridge and MacDonald before him, Tolkien thought deeply about his craft as a writer and creator, and it is by largely virtue of this thought that his art has achieved such timeless success. His 1939 lecture “On Fairy-Stories,” subsequently published as an essay in the 1964 book Tree and Leaf, is, as the editors of the recent authoritative edition of the essay put it, “Tolkien’s defining study of and the centre-point in his thinking about the genre (of fantasy), as well as being the theoretical basis for his fiction” (Flinger and Anderson 9). In this seminal work, he addresses all the points about the imagination raised by Coleridge and, following the Victorian writer George MacDonald, defends their application in the literary arts. Continue reading Coleridge’s Imagination through the lens of J. R. R. Tolkien→
In this post, I detail both events. My intent is to be more journalistic than interpretive, leaving the content of these events open as much as possible for interpretation by the blog’s audience, excepting a few places where I bring the methods of environmental history and critical thought into play, and experiment with some quantitative analysis of environmental issues.
This final poem is one I’ve been working on over the last year – the first thing I started thinking about when I joined this project was the (inescapable) connection between colonialism and Romanticist relationships with “the land.” There is a long tradition in Canadian poetry (and American, to an extent) of writing about the settler/pioneer’s emotional connection to the land, one which seems to involve a battle between being controlled by the land (and ultimately driven insane) and being the one in control.
Of course, what is not so much lost as outright ignored in this kind of writing is the existence of other peoples and cultures with their own relationships with the natural world, most obviously in this context the aboriginal peoples of Canada. “The Canadian poets” (by no means an indictment of all Canadian poetry! rather, the name is meant to underscore how unaware the speakers are of other kinds of Canadian poetry) literally gloss over other voices speaking their own relationship between themselves and the landscape around them.
Some of the poems I had in mind in particular, drawn from different time periods and genres, are Earle Birney’s “Bushed,” Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “Dark Pines Under Water,” and Margaret Atwood’s “Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer,” all of which are beautiful poems and well worth reading.