Saturday, November 01, 2008

On a change of epoch

A stupid phrase has been floating around my stupid head for some time now. A stupid phrase: Post-Literature Literature. Capitalised. Literature that comes after Literature, after the whole thing, the whole edifice, has come crashing down. A post-apocalyptic Literature, a Literature that knows the game is up, that it's all finished, that the real world is a greater work of fiction than any particular fiction, and that what's left is to press Literature, what remains of Literature, towards that Reality, to hope it catches fire.
As a historian, I have bad enough taste to believe that we don't learn all that much from history. [However] what drives me to concentrate on the past, to work on the past, is really this desire to re-insert myself - if it was possible, physically - in historical situations. And there I feel something amazing can happen about mood that texts from the past - artworks too, but let's concentrate on texts, especially their prosody, their rhythm, their rhymes and so forth - sometimes seem to have absorbed a mood of the remote past that they can irradiate again, they can wrap you into that. I give you one example that I find absolutely amazing, and this is the most important troubadour of the medieval German language. His name is Walter von der Vogelweide. Now, he was politically changing between differents emperors and kings. He was basically participating in this proto-political situation, the time of the interregnum when it was not clear who would be the emperor. We know that biographically he was hesitant; he was nervous; he was under pressure, and there's a certain moment when this happens when the prosody of his poems is changing. Now you can of course not ultimately prove that but I have the very strong impression that if I recite these poems [or rather] if you read them in class even to people who would not understand the content of the poems, they feel that something is changing. And that, for me, is a completely amazing thing; very precious to me. You feel you can expose yourself, you can wrap yourself physically ... because literature has conserved that into a mood that is no longer capable of happening in your time.
Sepp Gumbrecht discussing the disclosive power of mood with Robert Harrison on Entitled Opinions.

1 comment:

  1. But Spurious goes on (he always goes on): "Who hasn't put the novel down in exasperation? Only to pick it up again, to finish it ... out of a sense of duty to what began so dizzingly in those opening pages?"

    Well, I have. I gobbled up Montano's Malady start to finish; it is totally articulate and the most inspiring book I have read lately. I reread it with no problem and no theories about Post Literature Literature. I find Spurious, and his endless pale reflections, very exhausting, though. Why does he bother to try to cozy up to Vila-Matas? The critic's mindset seems to continually outdo itself, or tie itself up in knots. So maybe we have a Post Criticism Criticism. But it is a long winded whine. "Spurious" has aptly named his blog.



Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

Blog Archive

Contact steve dot mitchelmore at Powered by Blogger.