1. Take careful note of the extent and nature of Elizabeth’s shame and defensiveness upon discovering Darcy’s humiliating disparagement of her family; what does and doesn’t embarrass her and why?
2. Note also that in his proposal to Elizabeth Darcy dwells at length on the degradation this attachment to her family would imply for him. Is it possible to read this otherwise than as obnoxious? By the end of the novel Darcy will be cast as worthy of Elizabeth’s esteem, so a question to bear in mind as you proceed is whether he changes, she changes, or neither change but instead this is just a case of mixed messages and confused, incomplete communication.
3. By contrast, Austen says that Elizabeth, in the face of such an insult, actually harbors some concern about hurting Darcy’s feelings. Is this not to paint her as ridiculously saintly?
4. One question I think the foregoing issues hinge on is whether a paradox of love is being papered over here, namely that what makes Darcy’s behavior insulting is, according to Austen, also finally what proves it to be an authentic expression of love. Love is true when it causes us to overrule what seems in our rational self-interest. But the question is why this must involve mortifying humiliation for Elizabeth; could Austen have made the same point about love without subjecting the Bennet family to such contempt?
5. Does Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth have any special authority by virtue simply of being a letter? how would it affect the credibility of what he says there if he’d communicated in person by mouth? Consider also the fact that what Darcy writes overturns so much of what everybody has said not just about himself and Wickham but also about herself and her family (for instance whereas before reading the letter she blamed Darcy for Jane’s loss of Bingley, afterwards she adopts Darcy’s view that her family’s to blame). One might suppose that written language, being more abstract and explicit than spoken language is therefore only that much more removed from the gravitational force of Burkean inertia, but it is precisely the compelling effect of such force that Darcy’s letter seems to exert on Elizabeth. So is Austen making any larger point about a difference between written and spoken language? could a defense of the novel, of her own writing, also be in play here?
1. What does it mean to speak of a second death? the distinction returns to Freud’s death drive, and attempts to account for the fact that, on the one hand, there is a space carved out within the comprehensible world of meaning, i.e., the symbolic order, for death, but on the other hand the death drive posits an underlying force hostile to meaning per se, i.e., a second death which is the “radical annihilation of the symbolic texture through which the so-called reality is constituted.” (150) This distinction also echos the distinction we discussed last week in Zizek’s claim that “desire is itself a defense against desire.” Do the duality of death and that of desire boil down to the same thing?
2. What is the argument behind these ‘echoing’ claims of Benjamin and Lacan: “The concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogeneous, empty time” and “development is nothing but a hypothesis of domination” (160). Do you agree?
3. What does Zizek mean by Benjamin’s “creationist materialism”?
1. Why does Kierkegaard say that to accuse another is to accuse oneself? (381). Why according to Kierkegaard will the man of faith speak to God only of grace and never of justice? (386)
2. What Kierkegaard says about echoing reminds me of a line from Shelley’s “Defense” (which you’ll read soon): “poetry is the image of life in its eternal truth.” It’s an essentially paradoxical claim to discover infinity in the finite. But Kierkegaard’s and Shelley’s claims actually seem to hinge on collapsing any distinction between finite and infinite: on discovering the eternal truth of temporal life as such. So Kierkegaard says that “God is actually himself this pure like for like, the pure rendition of how you yourself are….God’s relation to a human being is at every moment to infinitize what is in that human being at every moment” (384). So infinity seems to be introduced not as a separate order of reality from the finite world but rather as the sheer form itself of “echoing,” “imaging,” mirroring or poetically re-presenting the latter. So Kierkegaard continues: “externality [i.e., the finite, temporal world] is too dense a body to be the echo, and the physical ear is too hard of hearing to discover eternity’s repetition” (385). Here it is hard not to think of “The Grecian Urn”‘s “unheard melodies,” and “more endeared ear of the spirit” that hears “ditties of no tone.”
So is Kierkegaard’s argument about faith translatable into an argument about poetry? For instance, could Kierkegaard’s interpretation of the words of John, “let us love one another,” and of Jesus’s words, “be it done for you as you have believed,” be taken as argument about poetry?
1. Explain the distinction between Erfahrung and Erlebnis. How does this relate to the distinction in the “Concept of History” between “homogeneous, empty time” and “time filled by the presence of now?”
2. Why does Benjamin say that Proust’s concept of the memoire involuntaire “bears the traces of the situation that engendered it”? (316)
3. What does Benjamin mean by the phrase “the experience for which exposure to shock has become the norm” (318). Is there something paradoxical about speaking of “shock” as a “norm”?
4. Explain how Baudelaire’s “A une passante” exemplifies the experience for which exposure to shock has become the norm. Is something like Kierkegaardian faith, love, echoing in play here?
Notice how supersaturated with negations this sonnet is. Wordsworth seems to set himself against everything “external” in a manner akin to Kierkegaardian faith, even the externality of the sonnet itself, which seems to communicate what it would say only by contrast with what it does say. So how does Westminster Bridge compare with Baudelaire’s “A une passante” as 1) a reflection on the decay of experience in the modern urban environment, and 2) a reassertion of a new kind of poetically integrated “filled experience of the now” within that degraded environment?