Virginia Woolf perhaps does, as Walter Allen suggests, look to art to make order from chaos, substituting art for religion with the “mystic’s intuition.” Allen bestows Woolf with the agency of a mystic, assuming that intrinsic intuition is the medium from which her art is wrought. Definitively, a mystical visionary strives to bring the human experience of the phenomenological world to a place painfully out of reach for even (and maybe especially) the most outstretched finger. Mysticism, as an act of self-surrender, aims to uncover truths that lie beyond the human scope or ordinary experience. Mystical writers, like W.B. Yeats, for example, strive to illustrate the shortcomings of the human consciousness by actively undermining language in a medium that relies upon language to communicate. To transcend the earthly ties of language a mystical writer may emphasize style – the form – as the mystic’s tool: the mind’s eye, not the mind’s mouth.
My students this semester have been really open to the exchange of literature. Every week I await the handing-over of a new favorite book from a student as we make an exchange of books. Most recently, I have read the first book of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games (American, 2008-2010) trilogy, which is timely since the film is about to be released.
I was pulled in by the timeless Orwellian plot of a country fat with too much surveillance, and reminded of Takami’s Battle Royale with Collins’s mingling of children and violence as entertainment. But what intrigued me the most about the tale was Katniss’s — the main character’s — affinity (and also her distaste) for love.
Mary Hays is an eighteenth-century author obsessed with proving that she — like her romantic contemporaries — can use highfaluting language as an argument for virtue: her own virtue. Memoirs of Emma Courtney (British, 1796) is not an easy read although it is short, but the pay-offs are big. My jaw was hanging down to my feet from practically the first page. I have rarely — never? — encountered such a female heroine in English literature in my oh-so-many dimly-lit reading frenzies.
That I have named this very blog after Marie Corelli — and her “electric creed” in the novel A Romance of Two Worlds — speaks to a fact that I don’t really need to reveal: I am in love with Marie Corelli. The pleasure that reading her books brings me is one that can only be had through reading Corelli. But I will save my love-song for Corelli for another post (you’re welcome!).
Having just finished her novel The Sorrows of Satan (British, 1895) reminded me of my blog series, “The Devil is a Woman, but only Momentarily.” This is my fourth installment in the series.
A couple days ago I took some students in my class to see the latest cinematic attempt to bring Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre to the public.
At the opening scene of Cary Fukunaga’s film my heart sank down into my heels and then, from there, I only stomped the ground with a red face throughout the rest of the film, trying to crush and smother the disappointment and anger that swelled through my body.
When I was called out for teaching some provocative contexts in my “Strange Children” course this quarter, my supervisor came to my defense by saying, “Well, it’s not like you’re teaching Death in Venice, or anything.” I had heard of Thomas Mann’s novella — and really enjoyed reading the obscure The Transposed Heads, which I consider a really masterful work despite some scathing criticisms to the contrary — but had never read it. I headed to the library and checked it out right away. Would Mann prove to be more dirty and provocative than Alice’s Adventures? Was it possible?
William Hazlitt is notorious for writing criticism that doesn’t hold back. A kind of rogue who received a large number of threats for his blatant opinions concerning authorship and culture, Hazlitt ruminated about the darker aspects of human experience.
In his best-known work, The Spirit of the Age (British, 1825), he appears more tame than in other essays, such as “Reason and Imagination.” Although he does frequently praise his contemporaries for certain noble attributes, Hazlitt is much more in the habit of ripping them to shreds.
Yet, he rarely elevates himself above these decapitated philosophers.
In “The Pleasure of Hating,” I find Hazlitt at his best. I also ponder about the function of hating in Victorian society, and its use today.