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Ranging from the ancients to the early moderns, from the Bible to medieval literature, from Shakespeare to the poetry of the seventeenth century and our own modern day, the love presented here is neither exclusively of the body, nor exclusively of the spirit. It is not merely sex—though some critics have been eager to dismiss it in just this way.


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Neither, however, is it only spiritual, intellectual, emotional, or what is popularly referred to as Platonic. The love this book considers, and that so much of our poetry celebrates, is a combination of the physical and the emotional, the sexual and the intellectual, the embodied and the ethereal. Above all, it is a matter of mutual choice between lovers who are each at once Lover and Beloved. It appears in Hellenistic Jerusalem as a glimpse back into the age of Solomon, then fades into the dim background of Rabbinical and Christian allegory. It is revived in France, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, by poets and an unusual group of Rabbis, only to fade once again, betrayed by later poets writing under the twin spells of Neoplatonism and Christianizing allegory.

Augustine argues that though God did not intend that Man should have dominion over Man, it now exists because of sin:. But by nature, as God first created us, no one was a slave either of man or of sin. In truth, our present servitude is penal, a penalty which is meant to preserve the natural order of law and forbids its disturbance; because, if nothing had been done contrary to that law, there would have been nothing to restrain by penal servitude. Wicked rulers are a punishment from God:. Truthfully, if we look at the Word of God, this will lead us further. To be obedient is therefore to be pleasing to God.

It is incredible how a people, when it becomes subject, falls so suddenly and profoundly into forgetfulness of its freedom, so that it is not possible for them to win it back, serving so frankly and so happily that it seems, at a glance, that they have not lost their freedom but won their servitude. They will say they have always been subjects, and their fathers lived the same way; they will think they are obliged to endure the evil, and they demonstrate this to themselves by examples, and find themselves in the length of time to be the possessions of those who lord it over them; but in reality, the years never gave any the right to do them wrong, and this magnifies the injury.

The first reason why men willingly serve, is that they are born serfs and are nurtured as such. From this comes another easy conclusion: people become cowardly and effeminate under tyrants.

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To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, the rights of humanity, even its duties. Finally, it is a vain and contradictory convention to stipulate on the one hand an absolute authority, and on the other an unlimited obedience. The tradition even makes us forget there ever was such an origin. The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.

Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

Objects of Affection by Krishna Udayasankar

We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. Love challenges obedience; it is one of the precious few forces with sufficient power to enable its adherents to transcend themselves, their fears, and their isolation to such a degree that it is possible to refuse the demands of power. Love does not always succeed. Love rejects the claims of law, property, and custom. Too often, the poetry written about this love has been ill-served by its ancient and modern critics.

By denying poetry—particularly love poetry—the ability to serve as a challenge to the structures of authority in the societies in which it is written. The Homeric representations of the gods roused a protest on the part of the founder of the Eleatics, Xenophanes of Colophon fl. Three masters, who appear exclusive from each other, are dominant: Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. The two go together, since the suspicious man reverses the falsifying work of the deceitful man. It may be the function of more corrosive literature to contribute to making a new type of reader appear, a suspicious reader, because the reading ceases to be a confident journey made in the company of a trustworthy narrator, but reading becomes a fight with the author involved, a struggle that brings the reader back to himself.

But as with so many useful tools, this one can be, and has been overused. Why is it that critics are so quick off the mark to interrogate, unmask, expose, subvert, unravel, demystify, destabilize, take issue, and take umbrage? What sustains their assurance that a text is withholding something of vital importance, that their task is to ferret out what lies concealed in its recesses and margins?

What is the appeal of this approach? Heidegger divides the concept of truth into correctness Richtigkeit or accurate correspondence of ideas with things as they presently are in the world, and the unconcealedness or discoveredness Unverborgenheit or Entdecktheit of entities. The first is necessarily grounded in, and dependent upon the second, for there can be no truth about things in the world without things in the world.

Heidegger argues that to get at truth not merely in its surface, concrete, or ontic sense, but in its deeper, structural, ontological sense, the seeker must go through a process of unveiling, reaching a state he called disclosedness Erschslossenheit , accompanied by a process of clearing Lichtung , removing what is inessential and shining a light Licht on the core that remains. Much of the criticism we encounter in this book operates on the assumption that a poem has a surface the actual words and relationships between them that must be cleared away in order to reveal the truth.

He believes that criticism is discovery rather than creation. What it says is only this: it is—and nothing more. Apart from that, it is nothing. For example, Jacques Derrida argues that one cannot understand a text by referring to something outside it:. Yet if reading must not simply redouble the text, it cannot legitimately transgress the text toward something other than itself, to a referent metaphysical reality, historical, psycho-biographical, etc.

This is why the methodological considerations that we risk here on an example are closely dependent on general propositions that we have elaborated above, as to the absence of the referent or the transcendental signified. There is no outside-text. Therefore, let me specify what language means in that which it communicates; it is neither signal, nor sign, nor even a sign of the thing as an external reality.

The relationship between signifier and signified is entirely enclosed in the order of language itself, which completely determines the two terms. Such signs are not to be read in terms of any positive content or reference, but in terms of their difference from other signs in the overall system:. When we say they correspond to concepts, we imply that these are purely differential, defined not by their positive content but negatively by their relations with other terms of the system. Even more: a difference generally supposes positive terms between which it is established; but in language there are only differences without positive terms.

Whether we take the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that pre-exist the language system, but only conceptual differences and phonic differences issuing from the system. It has no necessary link with the world of objects and actions outside of language, and is simply an association of sounds and concepts:. The unifying link between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary, or again, as we intend by signs the whole that results from the association of a signifier with a signified, we can say it more simply: the linguistic sign is arbitrary.

These striking similarities call for a reexamination of the fundamental assumption of the arbitrariness of the sign. Perhaps, at long last, such claims can be reconsidered. The idea that emotions, thoughts, and experiences of the poet are immaterial to an understanding of the poem is one that has been with us since the advent of the so-called New Criticism. The poem belongs to the public.

It is embodied in language, the peculiar possession of the public, and it is about the human being, an object of public knowledge. At the time Wimsatt and Beardsley were writing this article, this argument was already being made across the Atlantic. This idea can be seen in more highly developed form in the notion promulgated by Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault in the s that the author does not exist for readers in any traditional sense—what exists or is perceived to exist is an author function.

All of this is well known; and in its own good time, criticism and philosophy has taken note of this disappearance or this death of the author. The structure of a book of verse must be everywhere its own, innate, eliminating chance; still, the author must be omitted. For Paul de Man, such criticism has a quasi-theological function akin to unmasking idolatry:. Criticism […] functions more and more as a demystification of the belief that literature is a privileged language.

The dominant strategy consists of showing that certain claims to authenticity attributed to literature are in fact expressions of a desire that, like all desires, falls prey to the duplicities of expression. But not quite all readers have given their assent to this state of affairs. This attitude of superiority of the critic to the poet, with its distancing of life from poetry, is aptly expressed by the poet-critic T. Why may it not be one tool among many? Because to the extent that the poet is allowed to exist , the free reign of the critic is threatened. If you would have power over a man, you have to do more than merely address him; you must shape him, and shape him so that he cannot want otherwise than you would have him want.

Obedience, once selected, becomes the lens through which these critics read, and the method by which they would shape readers in their own image, so that they cannot want otherwise, a process we can see at work in the long history of the relation between literature and criticism, beginning with the allegorical readings of the Song of Songs.

The earliest examples are not rooted merely in suspicion, but in the openly-expressed desire to exercise authority over the hearts and minds of others, and many modern examples of suspicion-based criticism retain more than a trace of that original impulse. One of the major contentions of this book is that too much of the work by specialists in many literary fields minimizes, reinterprets, or outright ignores the human elements of love and desire in poetry, a situation which scholars like Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay admit has gone too far.

In Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay, eds. Politics , ed. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are ours. Summa Theologiae : Vol. Q, A6, Jean Calvin. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Contrat Social. Eikonoklastes London, , 3, Sig. The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. London, , Sig. Bernays, 27, Denn Propaganda ist nicht Selbstzweck, sondern Mittel zum Zweck. Evgeny Onegin , 1.

In Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. Sobraniye Sochinenii. Blagoi, S. Bondi, V. Vinogradov and Yu. Oksman Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, , Vol.

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In their beginnings, universities were training grounds for service in the church or at court for those students who took degrees , and institutions that inculcated obedience in the wider population. The subversiveness of an Abelard or a Wycliffe—which in each case came at a far greater cost than any paid, or even contemplated by the academic critic today—is most clearly understood in that context.

Corpus Iuris Civilis , Vol. Science in Context, A History of Classical Scholarship , Vol. I : From the Sixth Century B. Francois Rabelais. Gargantua et Pantagruel. Strabo, Geography , 1. In Strabo , Geography , Vol. I : Books 1—2 , ed. The Defence of Poesie. III , ed. Tamar Deborah.


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    Love and its Critics

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