oct. 25 notes and questions


This set of chapters includes some of the most pivotal of the novel.  One sign of this is that Austen’s narrator starts rendering some pretty broad and conclusive judgments:  the narrator sticks her/his neck out in other words, committing to certain value judgments rather than continuing to stand sardonically aloof making wry comments on characters’ and society’s follies.  These judgments pertain to the difference between what makes for good and bad personal character, especially a good and bad spouse, and what counts as genuine and false aesthetic taste and cultivation.

1.  So we learn in Chap. 43 that Mr. Bennet is guilty of serious “impropriety” (155) as a husband.  This could come as a surprise since his perspective seems so close to that of Elizabeth and the narrator (for instance on p. 124, upon first learning from Colonel Fitzwilliam about Darcy’s insulting maneuvers against her family on Bingley’s behalf, Elizabeth exclaims that nothing “could be urged against my father, who though with some peculiarities, has abilities which Mr. Darcy himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will probably never reach”).  So what impropriety does she discover in her father and why does she only discover it now and not earlier?  have Elizabeth and the narrator also been guilty of the same impropriety?

2.  Chapter 43 may be the most important of the novel.  The crucial events recounted here all have to do with Elizabeth’s aesthetic cultivation, the training or (in the more judgmental, normative terms of the novel) growth and ripening of Elizabeth’s taste.  The key objects she learns to appreciate in new ways are the estate of Pemberley and the person of Darcy.  So two questions:  i) what are the values that in each or both cases are newly revealed to her? ii) what or who mediates the revelation (consider for instance the role of art (architecture, furniture and above all painting), “nature,” and Mrs. Reynolds)?

3.  How do you explain the alternation of Darcy’s character at Pemberly?  To what extent is it not an alteration in Darcy at all but in how Elizabeth views him?

4.  This chapter ends with Elizabeth preoccupied with this alteration in Darcy “but above all with his wishing her to be acquainted with his sister.”  Is this not bizarre?  Why does the sister’s importance exceed his?  (is she secretly in love with the sister or something?)

5.  Two crucial themes to consider:  i) officers:  what could Austen be suggested about the military, about society generally, and about love, by making Lydia infatuated with anybody in uniform?  (consider Georgiana’s mocking comment:  “Pray Miss Eliza, are not the militia removed from Meryton?  They must be a great loss to your family” (174);  ii) perversion:  the theme of perversion explicitly crops up in many key places which suggests that Austen may implicitly be making a broader point about it:  the fact that Darcy arrives at Pemberley while Elizabeth is there is called perverse (163); Elizabeth acknowledges Darcy’s love for her only insofar as it counteracts first his supposed contempt for her and then her expressed contempt for him; Georgiana perversely compels Darcy to praise Elizabeth (176).

6.  “Though they could not all talk, they could all eat” (174).  Discuss.


Please be sure to read this!!! It is particularly clear and accessible and covers many of the key issues we’ve been dealing with.

Solitary confinement is akin to the experience of the Guantanamo Bay or death row prisoners we discussed last class:  in Kermode’s words, time that doesn’t progress towards any end is empty, and “without the sense of passing time one is virtually ceasing to live, one loses contact with reality.”  But Kermode argues that the novel Solitary Confinement demonstrates that this loss actually opens up possibilities for profound, autonomous self-creation, for “inventing” fictions of time.  The prisoner’s fictions are instructive for all of us moderns who, according to Kermode (echoing Benjamin), face an essentially contingent, empty temporal reality:  “Time cannot be faced as coarse and actual, as a repository of the contingent; one humanizes it by fictions of orderly succession and end” (160); it is “essential…’to have a boundary which would make time finite and comprehensible’….essential, whether one’s poverty is real or figurative; tracts of time unpunctuated by meaning derived from the end are not to be borne.” (162).

1.   Why does Kermode characterize Solitary Confinement as “post-tragic”?  what does the following mean? “Down on the bedrock, life becomes a love affair of the mind, and reality merely the eternally mysterious beloved.”  Likewise from this perspective Burney discovers that “the quality of an action” is determined by by the volition that preceded it but retrospectively as a matter of reflective consciousness (158); do you agree?

2.  Why does Kermode claim “ethical solutions are aesthetic” (160)?  why is the problem of “imagining a relation between the time of a life and the time of a world” (166) so important and why has modernity made it particularly, perhaps even impossibly, difficult?  A central thesis of Kermode’s is in fact that straightforward solutions to this problem have become unsatisfactory; we require difficulty somehow:  “fictions too easy we call ‘escapist;’ we want them not only to console but to make discoveries of the hard truth here and now….We do not feel they are doing this if we cannot…hear the discoveries of dissonance, the word set against the word” (179).  What does it mean to only find satisfaction in dissonance, a word that is somehow at odds with itself?

3.  When Kermode says that “your own death lies hidden from you” (161) is this a way of speaking of Zizek’s “second death”?  Is Kermode’s coarse, contingent, empty reality akin to the Lacanian Real?

4.  What does Kermode mean by calling Burney’s “upper class English” status (and in particular education) “relevant” to his literary achievement?  do you detect a vestige here of Austenian/Burkean defense of English aristocracy?


1.  Comment on the (Kierkegaardian? Keatsian?) function of echoing in “There was a Boy.”

2.  Do you agree with Kermode that “Resolution and Independence” “is not about the leech gatherer at all”?  Why does Kermode say that this poem “has an end which could pass as the end of a simpler, even of a bad poem; but here it is a fake, a cheat in the plotting….[I]ts true end is the proof that from time to time, as now, we are by our own spirits deified; peculiar grace is the property not so much of grave livers, as of poems.” (171)?

De Quincey

Like the Kermode I also think this short essay of de Quincey’s offers a relatively accessible yet profound account of crucial issues.

In the second paragraph what example does de Quincey use to illustrate his argument about the limits of the understanding?  Do you find it persuasive?  How does this relate to his argument about the function of the knocking at the gate in “Macbeth”?


1.  In his letter of Nov. 22, 1817 (to Bailey) Keats says that men of genius have an effect like a chemical reaction on the minds of others “but they have not any individuality, any determined character.”  What could it mean to exercise power but lack “a proper self”?  How does this relate to the famous line from this letter:  “The imagination may be compared to Adam’s dream:  he awoke and found it truth”?  Does the following passage, which seems to anticipate what Kierkegaard discussed in terms of “echoing the infinite,” help answer the foregoing questions?  “…imagination and its empyreal reflection is the same as human life and its spiritual repetition.”  How do you interpret Keats’s example of the memory of a singer?

2.  In his Dec. 28, 1817 letter (to G. and T. Keats) Keats articulates his famous notion of ‘negative capability;’ how does it relate to the above questions?

3.  What is Keats’s criticism of the “egotistical sublime” he associates with Wordsworth in the Oct. 27, 1818 letter (to Woodhouse)?  In this letter Keats also says that the true (i.e., negatively capable) poet is a chameleon, and yet, as such, “the most unpoetical of anything in existence.”  What can this mean?  Consider the fact that he explains this by referring to an experience of being at a party or seeing a nursery of children, activities that don’t seem to involve poetry per se at all.

4.  A common feature of the Elgin Marbles sonnet and the Ode on a Grecian Urn is that both develop in a direction of increasing abstraction:  all the emotional intensity of the sick eagle looking at the sky, and lovers about to kiss, gives way to the formal, conceptual abstractions of a magnitude and its shadow, and the equation of truth and beauty as “all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”  What does this development from sensuous and emotional intensity to formal abstraction mean?  Does it suggest a narrative development of some kind?


This essay addresses the change effected by modernity:  a kind of aesthetic spectatorship becomes impossible in the modern context:  “what used to be called art begins at a distance of two meters from the body;” “no one dreams any longer of the blue flower.”  Technology Benjamin suggests has rendered this model of aesthetic spectatorship obsolete, but in the process “consigns the outer edge of things to a long farewell.”  He claims that the object of modern art and dreams alike has become precisely this obsolescent outer edge of things, the point that is most “threadbare and timeworn,” like banknotes that have lost their value.  The object of modern art is kitsch according to Benjamin for the same reason that the catalyst for Proust’s massive novel is a ‘petit madeleine’:  if the world is totally reified, technologically super-saturated with instrumental purpose, then chance and obsolescence, the loss of meaning and purpose, become the precondition of art.  Like a child’s gnarly old teddy-bear, it is precisely kitsch’s dispensability, being “worn through with habit,” that can expose us to a kind of strangeness, an aesthetic opacity, and enable a new kind of “surrealist” enchantment.  The very valuelessness of obsolete banknotes exposes us to their aesthetic properties in a way that is preempted in valid currency.  This is what Keats called the orphaned status of the Grecian Urn, and it’s crucial to Keats’s poem that the urn that inspired it, the “Portland Vase,” was already by Keats’s time the inspiration of many more or less kitschy knock-offs.

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19 Responses to oct. 25 notes and questions

  1. Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

    The guilt of Elizabeth’s father is in sitting back and laughing at his daughters and wife, rather than dealing with them and trying to engage them in sensible activities and behaviour. He ceased trying to interact meaningfully with them and merely viewed them as objects for his own amusement– not thinking how damaging this would be for the children and how embarrassing for the family as a whole.

    Elizabeth is guilty of the same fault– delighting in Mr. Darcy’s supposed defects. But her fault was worse than her father’s because it was about her pride and her prejudice. Instead of delighting in Darcy’s faults out of sheer amusement, she delighted in them because they confirmed her own prejudicial, imagined, illustration of his character. Her pride (insulted by his refusing to dance with her) caused her to form prejudices against him which guided her imagination in the illustration of his character– and this illustration was completely inaccurate.

    Her illustration of Wickham’s character was also, likewise, faulty because she was inclined to think well of him. This is partly because he flattered her vanity with his attentions and also because he flattered her pride by feeding her with stories about Darcy that satisfied her prejudices.

    We could say that the narrator is guilty of delighting in follies of of the characters I suppose, but it is not really the same thing. The trouble isn’t merely delighting in the follies of others (either because it amuses us or flatters us) when we ought to be ashamed or dismayed– it’s also doing nothing about it. And as the novel as a whole isn’t just a mere comedy, but actually attempts some very serious commentary on the topic, I should say the narrator is not guilty in the same way that Mr. Bennett is.

    Which sorta brings me back to the point I was trying to make– perhaps unsuccessfully– last week about “judgement.” There seems to be this tendency to assume the Kierkegaardian picture of Christian “judgement” means: let’s turn our brains off and pretend that evil isn’t evil. Or if it is evil we have no right to punish it. That kind of thinking is exactly was implicates Mr. Bennett in the mess that Lydia gets into and the generally bad reputation of his wife and daughters. He sat back and laughed and did nothing while his wife and children exposed them all to ridicule. He DIDN’T take action against wrong-doing. He delighted in it.

    Let me be clear. What Kierkegaard means when he says that we should not ask God to smite people with judgement, is that we ought not to ask God to /make our enemies pay/–we ought not to ask God to DAMN them for their sins. Mr. Bennett’s refusal to step in and take action against the folly of his children was effectively the same thing as allowing them to suffer the consequences of their improprieties– he was damning them by NOT calling them out for their improprieties, by NOT “judging” that wrong is wrong and by NOT doing something about it.

    Elizabeth’s mistake about the characters of Darcy and Wickham is slightly different–in damning Darcy, she was damning herself. There was not much she could do to correct either characters and it was not her place to correct them by confrontation– that would be the kind of judgement she is meant to avoid according to Kierkegaard.

    Mr. Bennet is the head of his house and the man charged with the guidance and protection of his wife and children and in laughing at their follies he failed them. But Elizabeth could claim no such responsibility for the souls of Darcy or Wickham. The only soul she was responsible for was her own– and she failed it too. And in failing to correct her own soul– to check her pride and refuse to let prejudice blind her as to the characters of the two men, she was hurting herself and them–and her family– by extension.

    Unlike her father Elizabeth cannot “correct” the follies of others by actively stepping in and checking them. The way that she is meant to “correct” or “judge” her fellows is by proving to be an example of love, the way Kierkegaard explained: “Let us love one another.” Again– Jane and Bingley are the only ones who seem to pull this off. Jane doesn’t pretend that Wickham shouldn’t be made to marry Lydia or that his behaviour is anything better than scandalous and rascally. But she continues to hope for his soul.

  2. Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

    And I don’t see why it should be bizarre that Elizabeth was preoccupied with the thought of getting to know Darcy’s sister. She expected Darcy to behave as though she were an enemy after she rejected his proposal. Instead he not only behaves as though nothing has happened and he wishes to know her and her family better, but he also expresses a wish for her to be acquainted with his family– in other words he is acting as though she hadn’t rejected him at all and as though he is still pursuing her.

    When she and the Gardiners came upon him accidentally she might have assumed his behaviour to the Gardiners was only so civil as to contradict her opinion of him as proud– he was being more than commonly polite, but he would not have pursued an acquaintance with them if he had not already met them by chance. His desire for Elizabeth to become acquainted with his sister, however, immediately contradicted this possible explanation for his behaviour. The only explanation for it was that he still loved Elizabeth.

    Naturally, she would be very nervous and conflicted about the meeting. She was about to have her personal prejudices about Miss Darcy changed as well. She had heard she was proud like Darcy, and was likely conflicted about whether to like her should she prove to be agreeable, since she was set up as a rival of Jane’s. Not only that, but she probably sensed the fact that Miss Darcy’s opinion of her may influence her brother’s opinions. She was completely on the spot, overcome by curiosity about the character of the girl, her connection with Bingley, and what it could mean about Mr. Darcy’s feelings for her that his sister desired an acquaintance with her.

  3. Keats’ genius flying on the viewless wings of Poesy…

    I think the ideas Keats brings up tie very smoothly into our discussion last week of Kierkegaardian grace versus judgement. Appreciating beauty, even in the dark and conventionally terrible, is like grace in that it acknowledges its inability to see things from a godly (or infinitely wide) perspective and so chooses to accept everything as entitled and not understandable. Which is where the idea of Negative Capability comes in; we don’t need to achieve a perspective through which we can judge. Rather, we should strive towards such a perspective, and along the way, as we see things from the eyes of a growingly wide variety of people, we will naturally find it more and more difficult to judge tidily and instead we will be gracious and appreciate beauty.

    Being negatively capable does imply that one can comfortably exist within mysteries without searching for meaning, but it doesn’t imply that one mustn’t look for meaning; one must simply be wary of the search, conscious of the limitations of an individualistic perspective.

    When it comes to understanding others, we’ve discussed in class the paradox wherein one is searching for a central truth, comes to the end of the quest and finds the ‘answer’: “genuine” truth is hardly attainable from others and hardly expressible to others. But this solution came from a quest that didn’t take such a truth into account. Had those searching been conscious of truth’s supremely transient, fluid, personal, and isolated nature, there would have been no motivation for such a search and it probably would been called off with no such resulting truth. Without this truth, there would be no issue with questing for such a truth. But such a quest may go on to find the truth responsible for the paradoxical obstacle. Considering the intricate and esoterically knowable though hardly communicable nature of genuine truths reached through exploring paradox and through acknowleding our limited perspective capable only of effective negative capability, it may prove truthful that there’s always the possibility or even the innate desire to go on a quest for truth (which is beauty says Keats) despite the knowledge that there can be no knowledge, only knowing.

  4. Lauren Weatherdon says:

    The idea that “Death is a word which presents no real target to the mind’s eye” (161) does recall Zizek’s theory of the “second death,” as the latter marks the attempt to come to terms with the concept of “death”—of the unknown. As Kermode asserts, “your own death lies hidden from you” (161). However, whereas Zizek seems to indicate that this “second death” is achievable, Kermode illustrates that the notion of “death” exists as “a vacuum, a perfect secret, proposed to us as our end, and [which] we immediately set about filling . . . up” (161) with, presumably, fictions which enable us to apply order and reason to the Sublime. In fact, if the second death is achievable, wouldn’t it be after-the-fact? By the time we truly understand what “death” is, wouldn’t it necessarily coincide with, or follow, our death—at which point we would be (according to my belief, anyway) unable to make use of such knowledge? The “second death” is, as far as I understand it, entirely–and by nature–metaphorical and unfathomable.

    Kermode’s imagining of prison, and the paradox that one must accept true poverty to achieve complete freedom (157), reminds me of Rousseau’s notion that true freedom necessitates complete isolation from the “social contract” (aside from “forced freedom”), from the social constructions that bind us. Kermode’s description of the prisoner who, within the walls of a cell, is bound only by “hunger and ‘the animal lust to roam’” (157) illustrates the idea that one must be reduced to the basest of natural instincts in order to truly grasp what it is to be free—true poverty is, in a way (as I see it), an encounter with complete Reality. The prisoner is left with “his appetite and his thoughts” (157); the only way to overcome such an overwhelming encounter is, perhaps, by “projecting [his] humanity on a hostile environment” (156). Kermode’s reference to “test[ing] the gaiety of language” (156) seems to indicate that artistic creation—fiction—is intrinsically linked to this confrontation:

    “[Burney] is aware that in his solitude and freedom he has made what he could not have made among the improvisations of normal life, an objective and ordered world” (158)

    As he later confirms, “solitude is an ‘exercise in liberty’ and liberty is inventing, for all the casualty of life, fictions of relation.” (160) So… If I understand this correctly (the more I write, the less certain I am), then the confrontation with complete freedom, with the Real world, provokes a response from the spectator that overlays the overwhelming “Truth” with fiction in order that he may accept a reality, while still finding a means of living within it. It seems like one necessarily oscillates between reality and fiction, as to survive in the Real is impossible; as Kermode claims, “we have a loving-hating affair with reality, we ‘keep coming back to the real’; and this continually impoverishes us” (166). Thus, “fictions, through prone to absurdity, are necessary to life, and . . . they grow very intricate because we know so desolately that as and is are not really one.” (155) …Even though fictions are “cheating.”

  5. Carmel Ohman says:

    Kermode says: “What makes Burney’s book as it were post-tragic is his need to understand his plight alone” (157). First of all, it seems that Kermode is viewing tragedy as a brand of collective experience – experience to which many can relate. In my efforts to grasp Kermode’s conception of tragedy, the first image that came to mind was that of a city in mourning following a natural disaster – say, Hurricane Katrina. It is often said that tragedy brings people together – it navigates people’s differences and infuses them with a sense of shared humanity. There is nothing collective about the “post-tragic” experience, however. It is a drama which unfolds within the walls of a single consciousness, leaving no room for the contingencies necessitated by interaction with others. Burney rejects the attempt at communication, the knocking on the cell wall, because his solitary plight makes no allowance for variables. Using “language as a means of projecting [his] humanity on a hostile environment” (156), he has propelled his naked inner reality outward, a process which defends against external stimuli and makes him the Master of his world of solitary confinement. In this position, he resists social confinement, or participation in any symbolic order but his own; he resists having his reality thrust upon him by external sources.

    The view that Burney came to adopt – that “consciousness of the value of any action was essentially reflective, and could only be made crudely to precede the action by a process of forward imagination” (158) – alleviates stress over the problem of free will because it highlights the futility of any concern over the original “act of volition.” It is not prior to the act itself that one can judge whether the act is, for example, good or bad. If one claims to make such a judgment, it is by way of “a process of forward imagination” which is not so much a leap into the future (post-act), but a leap into the past (pre-act) from the future. In other words, “the quality of an act” is judged based on its consequences, which cannot truly manifest themselves in the here-and-now, the moment of volition. Furthermore, the only way that one can make this reflective leap from the future to the past is in reference to some brand of experience or history. How do we know that if we eat all our food at once, we’ll be hungry later? Be it through personal experience or knowledge imparted to us via our participation in society, our understanding of this consequence, hunger, emerges out of a sense of history. What happens, though, when one experiences utter self-loss as Burney did? It could be argued that in a position of impoverishment – when the veins of the symbolic order have been torn from your body like so many IV tubes – all sense of history evaporates along with an awareness of, or concern for, consequence. Admittedly, this argument is fairly extreme. If Burney had lost all sense of consequence, he would never have bothered to fabricate believable fiction for his Gestapo interrogators in an attempt to save his life. Perhaps a complete ignorance of consequence isn’t necessary, though. Perhaps, in a position of solitary confinement, the consequences of certain actions are merely dwarfed, making it possible for a man like Burney to embrace the triviality of volition while simultaneously fighting for self-preservation.

    In any case, Burney’s experience became all about the “love affair of the mind” (157) – an exceedingly personal retreat into consciousness following the breakdown of selfhood. His reflections on the nature of will exemplify the depths to which he probed in the construction of a supremely personal reality.

  6. Natassia Orr says:

    It seems that part of De Quincey’s argument about the limits of understanding is a criticism of limited understanding. For his example, he sites the appearance of a street from the perspective of someone standing at the end. The lines at the edge of the street seem to converge, and the buildings at the end seem smaller. De Quincey argues that, if asked to describe what the street looks, “he will be utterly unable to make the smallest approximation to it.” Because he knows that both edges of the streets are parallel, we will omit the apparent convergence of both sides of the road. “His understanding, which includes no intuitive knowledge of the laws of vision, can furnish him with no reason why a line which is known and can be proved to be a horizontal line, should not appear a horizontal line”

    I think the key here is the phrase “which includes no intuitive knowledge of the laws of vision”. The understanding that the line is horizontal is lacking a caveat, i.e. that when perspective is employed, the line will not appear to be horizontal. Proper understanding should include what is observed.

    The problem with understanding, of course, is that understanding can necessarily never be complete, absolute, perfect. Kieregaard makes this argument explicit in his essay Works of Love, where he says that people cannot act as a judge because they have not the limitless understanding of God. Understanding is necessarily limited, while a feeling, while it may not be completely understood, is in itself complete.

    In the murders in Macbeth, the audience is presented with a sort of dilemma. Because Macbeth is the (anti)-hero of his play, we are made to sympathise with, (or rather, understand) him, yet because of the nature of murder, “We were to be made to feel that the human nature, […] was gone, vanished, extinct; and that the fiendish nature had taken its place.” The understanding, as understanding must always be, is incomplete. Without the sort of strenuous study of horror (such as we make in this class), horror cannot easily be understood, though it can be felt.

    The knocking on the gate mediates this. The revulsion, the horror, is given voice–the audience can be made to understand that there is some sort of revolt going on, that “the human has made its reflux upon the fiendish.” We are made aware of the contrast that can be felt, but has not before been understood.

  7. Raquel Baldwinson says:

    I think my reading of Kermode differs from yours a little bit, Lauren. I find Kermode very much in keeping with Zizek’s second death, and his solitary confinement example a good way not of fathoming the second death but of propping it up in a way that does is not self-defeating.

    Kermode helps to illuminate Zizek’s second death by expressing an idea of a second life: “every course and actual man is doubled by an abstract expression of himself” (160). The actuality of a human, therefore, is in contrast to and accompanied by a symbolic existence. You can hear Zizek’s ideas here.

    In a very Zizekian fashion, he develops this conceptualization of second death as the abolition of a symbolic order. Kermode argues, “If you imagine yourself being shot , your body being rolled away in a barrow by soldiers, you are cheating yourself by substituting for your own body someone else’s” (161). It is necessary for one’s own death to be a mystery, to be “hidden from you” (161), because it is not a reality as we can know it, it is not a temporality.

    Kermode’s special gift is his ability to tease out that hard to reach concept of the second life and death through his account of Burney’s Solitary Confinement. In confinement, Burney tells himself, “I cannot still be here at Christmas.” So “when Christmas comes and he is still there, he notices the necessity of such disconfirmation- ‘I had made it necessary for me to be wrong by setting the limit in the first place” (161). Here we see that two distinct levels of existence are in operation: the course actuality of Burney and the Burney who exists as part of the human narrative, the Burney with a temporal lifespan. Burney manages to sort of ward off second death by making his own clock. So aside from the space that comprises the first life, the second life needs a temporality. The temporal world is the symbolic world because every symbol, every word has a temporality.

  8. Madeline Fuchs says:

    I have to agree as well with your read Raquel of Kermode’s supporting of Zizek’s second death theory. I believe that Kermode does this through his interpretation of time and it’s consuming influence on the human being’s existence.

    “If time cannot be felt as successive, this end ceases to have effect; without the sense of passing time one is virtually ceasing to live, one loses ‘contact with reality’.”

    This quote exemplifies the dependence humans have on the concept of time, that we measure our lives by it. Without time, we are unable to imagine our lives moving forward, or seeing a visible end. I really enjoyed Kermode’s emphasis on defining our live by this end, and how it can relate so strongly to literature.

    Therefore, it’s interesting how Kermode continues his discussion, only a few lines letter, referencing Burney’s notion that we cannot imagine our death. It appears as a paradox here then; we need to envision an end in order to make our lives significant; however, this end is only an imagination and can never be an actual reality. Paradox or not, Kermode echoes the Zizek reading in saying that,

    “Your own death lies hidden from you.”

    I honestly find this the most convincing yet terrifying lines that we have read so far. I think it also echoes Burke’s theory on obscurity, in that our death must be obscure from us. Our second and final death, will be something that we cannot imagine or forsee, it is something that will occur out of temporal space and that will exist as an absolute death, shutting down the system altogether.

  9. Alyzee Lakhani says:

    Chap. 43 (Looking at Darcy)

    Elizabeth has no way of knowing what Pemberley is like before her visit, but in trying to dissuade the Gardiners from visiting she says “that she is tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains” (158). I can’t be sure if this is how she really thinks Pemberley will be, or if she is trying to make estates seem like a dime a dozen to avoid a confrontation with Darcy – but she does think that Darcy’s housekeeper would be more “fine” and less “civil” than she found her.

    I think it is significant that Pemberley offers Elizabeth all the pleasures I imagine she would have sought at “the Lakes” (157) – nearly every sentence describing the estate highlights how “natural” it looks: “Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where the natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” (159). She does attribute the “natural look” of Pemberley to Darcy’s good taste, however, rather than think it a happy accident for which nature was to thank. The way the hill is “crowned” by the forest and and how the house “stand[s] well on rising ground” (159) suggest a deliberate yet elegant arrangement of house and its surrounding scenery.

    The delight Elizabeth takes in the understated decor of the house and grounds influences her view of Darcy, in that it allows her to re-read Darcy’s reserved standoffishness as an elegance of character, one that does not ply everyone for their approval as Wickham does. Though she is slow to change her mind about Darcy, her taking in the scenes at Pemberley primes her for this change of opinion. Her love of the estate also makes her wistful for having refused Darcy, and she daydreams about the pride of ownership she would enjoy if she could “rejoice…in [Pemberley’s rooms] as her own” (159) and “welcome to them as visitors [her] uncle and aunt” (159, my emphasis).

    The structure of the chapter is one that makes Elizabeth seem that she is getting a closer look at Darcy, even before he arrives on the scene. She begins by seeing a miniature portrait, and then a much larger one of Mr Darcy. Between these two events Mrs Reynolds gives Elizabeth lots of evidence about Darcy’s kindness and good humor. Though she is eager to consider herself deceived, to protect herself from regret and keep his character consistent with the hurt he caused her by demeaning her family, she is also eager to contradict her prejudices against him. When she confronts the big painting of Mr Darcy, she is convinced that Mrs Reynolds much be a reliable source (“The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs Reynolds was of no trifling nature” [162]).

    Elizabeth is now flattered and grateful for Mr Darcy’s professed regard rather than thinking of it as another expression of his contempt for her. Recollecting his proposal to her, she “remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of its expression” (162). That Elizabeth can willfully manipulate her opinions and adjust the way she remembers her proposal makes the reader feel dubious about how reliable her accounts of Mr Darcy have ever been. Like the canvas that Mr Darcy is re-presented on, Elizabeth can re-present Darcy to herself by allowing herself to think well of him.

    How much of Elizabeth’s prejudice against Mr Darcy is a mechanism she employs to protect herself from falling for him? Jane says earlier that she never thought Mr Darcy lacked the appearance of goodness that Elizabeth thought he did – this makes it clear that Elizabeth’s opinion of Darcy was not shared by all those around her, and outs her as someone who energetically set about disliking him. The comparison of seeing Mr Darcy with a kind of painting implies that one might see some object differently depending on one’s mood and self-interest – does the narrator make this accusation on Elizabeth, or are there others in the novel that show a personal/creative investment in their view of others?

  10. Tina says:

    In response to the question on Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence”:

    I do not necessarily agree with Kermode when he says that “Resolution and Independence” is ‘not’ about the leech gatherer at all. The leech gatherer serves as a muse for the speaker. While it is true that on the surface, the speaker seems to derive strength and comfort from the leech gatherer’s pathetic state as a vagrant and a social outcast, however there are certain points that defies this view. The poem really makes a mockery of society and it’s “compassionate” nature – this leech gatherer is very similar to Burney in Solitary Confinement in that they are both alone in their quest for freedom from their poverty. Wordsworth’s vagrant in particular strikes a chord in me due to his steely independence and endurance. His silence is idealized in that he makes no complaint of his state – this by itself gives us “middle-class” folk enough cause to breath a sigh of relief. Also, it is the speaker that approaches the leech gatherer to seek comfort from his melancholia, an act so similar to a beggar asking for alms. This reversal in roles makes it apparent that the speaker is transfixed onto the image of the vagrant in the moor for without the vagrant’s inspiring strength for survival, the speaker would have been left to wallow in his despondency and madness.

    I am struggling to understand what Kermode means when he says that “we are by our own spirits deified; peculiar grace is the property not so much of grave livers, as of poems.” I’m guessing that when we are no longer able to find the nourishment we (or poets) need from nature, we should do what the leech gatherer do with perseverance and self-sufficiency. Thus this self-sufficiency will sustain us through our darkest moments when we are alone and poor.

  11. Mandy Woo says:

    Descriptions such as “abnormally brave, and abnormally intelligent” (Kermode 156) are judged in relation to peers and so it is based on relation to a class value system which prizes these qualities. “Resolution” and “independence” are terms similarly prized by a literate English aristocracy and Kermode implies that Wordworth does not achieve a sufficient “explain[ation]” of the old man’s “lonel[iness]” and “fortitude” in an “unjust state of society” (170) ruled by aristocracy because that’s just the way it is, so the poem is “not about the leech gatherer at all” (170) for Kermode.

    I am not sure which one of Wordsworth’s “end[s]” (Kermode 171) Kermode is referring to: is it the poet’s “end” (Wordsworth 7.49), the leech gatherer’s “end” (20.136), or the ending of the poem itself? The “cheat” in imagining one’s own death (Kermode 161), as Raquel and Madeline have already explored, is present, but where?

    The “true end” (Kermode 171) proceeds to quote Wordsworth around the references to the death of the poet (7.49), either when he is young or old, which suggests that this is the end that “cheat[s]” (161). Leaving oneself in “despondency” and “madness” (Wordsworth 7.49) does not allow for the freeing act of self-creation and to end there would mean a “simpler” or “bad poem” (171). Kermode mentions, however, that “peculiar grace is the property not so much of grave livers, as of poems” (171) and that the poem is “asking you […] to attend directly […] to its own transformation” (171). Is Kermode referring to a process of deification here in regards to the poem itself?

  12. Vlad Cristache says:

    Re: Austen #3


    Although I agree with Rhiannon that one of the possibilities for Darcy’s change in behaviour at Pemberly is his further pursuit of Elizabeth’s hand (with Mr. Collins’ earlier dictum in mind that women only refuse an offer to entice the man all the more), I think this interpretation would exclude the radical transformation that Elizabeth undergoes – as mentioned by Professor Earle – at the beginning of Chapter 43. The truth of Elizabeth’s transformation is that she falls in love with Darcy and her pre-judice changes: she is no longer looking to find flaws in Darcy so much as virtues. She undergoes this change when she sees Pemberly and Darcy’s portrait and hears Mrs. Reynolds go on about his good qualities. What this experience provides for Elizabeth is a fantasy-frame. Once Darcy himself appears in the fantasy frame (at Pemberly) everything is complete: Elizabeth can fall in love with him. The commentary that Austen must therefore be making upon art here is the same as Zizek makes about movies (in The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema): it teaches us what to desire and how. In fact, we can parallel Elizabeth’s falling in love with Zizek’s reading of James Stewart falling in love with Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s Rear Window almost point by point:

    “[T]he window through which James Stewart, disabled and confined to a wheelchair, gazes continually is clearly a fantasy-window – his desire is fascinated by what he can see through the window. And the problem of the unfortunate Grace Kelly is that by proposing to him she acts as an obstacle, a stain disturbing his view through the window, instead of fascinating him with her beauty. How does she succeed, finally, in becoming worthy of his desire? By literally entering the frame of his fantasy; by crossing the courtyard and appearing ‘on the other side’ where he can see her through the window” (Zizek 133).

    The entire problem of the novel, in fact, comes down to the order in which Elizabeth perceives Darcy: if she would have seen his representation, his aestheticization, first, she would have had no trouble falling in love with him from the very beginning. It was the mistake of having Mr. Bingley talked about highly at the very beginning of the novel, and Darcy being a mere “stain” and “obstacle” (which he later literally is) at the first ball, that makes Elizabeth pre-judiced towards him, always searching for his flaws.

    But we may ask whether Austen is truly on her heroine’s side. While Elizabeth requires an aestheticization to fall in love with Darcy, what aestheticization requires the latter? Since we, readers (whether male or female), fall in love with Elizabeth at the same time as Darcy, loving her for her sharp tongue, will to walk through mud, and lack of desire to conform (especially to Lady Catherine’s expectations), we identify with his gaze. Although we admit that Elizabeth’s own persona is an honourable one – just as Darcy’s – and that we might indeed require an aestheticization to fall in love with Elizabeth (Austen’s novel itself), we either can given no account of such an aestheticization required for Darcy, or it must be apophatic: precisely Carolina’s contempt and un-aestheticization of Elizabeth makes Darcy fall in love. Where I feel that Austen may be critiquing Elizabeth is precisely in this difference: the difference, in Kermode’s terms, is between the tragic and the post-tragic. A “paradigmatic fiction,” one that is “too fully explanatory, too consoling” (Kermode 161) versus a fiction which “includes the acceptance of inexplicable patterns, mazes of contradiction” (165), one lies in the space of what Keats calls “negative capability.” The difference is redoubled in Benjamin’s “Dream Kitsch” where he tries to explain modernity’s shift away from Novalis’ Blue Flower and toward Surrealism’s mundane (and childish) repetition.


    But if for Austen art is solely the creation of a fantasy frame, a way of teaching desire, what happens when this desire is fulfilled? The frame disintegrates, the fantasy collapses, and the madman runs into the streets, holding on to a painting by Dali and screaming: “Art is Dead!” The fulfillment of such a desire brings an end to the work of art – hence Austen’s happy endings with nothing to follow after the fantasy is fulfilled. It is a knock upon the gate which wakes us up from “suspended life” and brings the resumption of “the goings-on of daily life” (Quincey).

    A work of art, then, is the persistence of such a fantasy: a fantasy that is never fulfilled. Its finest emblem (the work of art’s) in this context is Keat’s Grecian Urn. That urn which makes us realize that: “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/ Are sweeter” (lines 11-2).

  13. Arin Vaillancourt says:

    Arin Vaillancourt
    English 491
    Online Response Week 7

    What I found to be the most interesting aspect of the article was the idea that time is finite. In math, you can have infinity, indeed it does not truly exist, but it is an abstract concept that mathematicians use to put a semi-finite boundary on a boundless number. When you have a limit approaching negative or positive infinity, it means that the graph of that limit will continue on forever. Yet we have to symbolize forever in order to grasp it and understand it. This is why time is so fascinating. I have experienced the complete disorientation that the essay begins to describe. I once was so absorbed in a book that I spent three days living off of diet coke and the written word, never knowing what time it was or even if the people around me were awake, however, that was a particular instance which I have yet to repeat. When I came out of the stupor it was similar to what DeQuincy describes in his article when the women are fainting and eerie silences and whatnot. I find myself, like Burney, anxious when I cannot see a finite end to something. I have to envision an ending to almost everything I do, and most of the time is it based on the clock. Example: I have X amount of time for studying activity A and Y amount of time for studying activity B. These amounts of time define how long I must torture myself studying, but they impose a limit, and the limit is what I find satisfying. Which brings me back to the idea of envisioning one’s own death. I’ve envisioned a death for myself many times, but he is right, we cannot know when or how or existence will end. This is where chance and fate come into play, and they conflict with our need to imagine an ending (which is confusing as hell). This piece for me is a lot like the Woody Allen bit Rhiannon posted (“To suffer is love to love, to love is to suffer, suffering is suffering and yadda yadda yadda”). I’m still pondering about this piece but I will leave you all with a story.

    My mom loves to read, however, she has a problem when it comes to books. She always has to read the ending before she starts any book. This infuriated my father (who is an engineer and therefore rooted in rigid linear logic) to no end. He gave up on novels because my mother once told him the ending to a science fiction novel he was reading. He hasn’t picked up a piece of literature (Not including children’s stories) since that moment. Anyways he decided that since my mom ruined reading for him he would do the same to her. So he gave her a novel she wanted to read but cut out the entire ending. When she found out he did this she was absolutely livid, and he refused to give her the ending before she read the entire book, and after she finished it he would only give her the ending a page at a time. Needless to say she gave him so much grief that he never tried to attempt this trick again, and to this day she always reads the ending before she starts any book.

  14. Lindsay Vermeulen says:

    “Down on the bedrock, life becomes a love affair of the mind, and reality merely the eternally mysterious beloved.”

    In solitary confinement, there is very little to occupy your mind but the outside world. Likewise, a person in love finds their thoughts to be hopelessly dominated by their beloved. Kept “in the dark,” there is no way to gain direct knowledge of reality or a love interest, and consequently great swathes of time are used up imagining all possible truths. Lovers imagine details about each other that they can never discover, this being especially common in cases of secret or unrequited love. In Burney’s case, this “other” that occupies his mind so fully is the world outside, and from his state of solitary captivity its details and intricacies are just as unknowable and therefore equally prone to imagined projections and ruminations.

    This comparison functions as a sort of reverse metaphor: it is not uncommon for lovers to compare their passion to chains and captivity and lament how fully they have been ensnared; it is certainly less common to find an account of a captive comparing his bodily confinement to that of the heart.

    I agree with Kermode’s assertion that “the quality of an action” is determined retrospectively. As Albus Dumbledore so wisely puts it, “the consequences of our actions are always so diverse, so complex, that it makes predicting the future a very difficult business indeed.” No matter how carefully thought out an action is, it is impossible to take into account every effect it will have. It is much more achievable to look back and determined how well it functioned compared in the context of its desired effect. Evidence of this truth is the simple fact that everyone makes mistakes.

  15. ~For every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom. -C. S. Lewis

    What does it mean to only find satisfaction in dissonance, a word that is somehow at odds with itself?

    I think we desire this dissonance because we see it in ourselves; we see evil and chaos in our very beings (the problem of evil becomes the problem of ‘me’), and we want to project our relationship with ourselves on the world, and on everyone else. We are conflicted beings, and we cannot fix ourselves, change ourselves, or become our fantasies. Our fictions are “prone to absurdity” (155) because we are prone to absurdity. Kermode claims that ‘we have a loving-hating affair with reality”(166), but perhaps this is just another way of saying that we have a love-hate relationship with ourselves: between our “abstract expressions of ourselves”(160) and the world as we experience it: as we experience ourselves in solitude. How have we come to be this way? Is it the influence of language, or the influence of the universe; is it inevitable?

    So I would argue that this need for dissonance is not only a modern symptom: it seems that throughout history we have this sense of “this is too good to be true, therefore, it’s not true” “this is too simple, I cannot accept it” is another way of saying “i am too evil: i must be punished in some way”… just look at all the intricate religions that people invent: the types of tortures that they put themselves through… a thousand incarnated lives, etc. until they can finally reach that place of harmony.

    How are we conflicting? Kermode claims that “fictions too easy we call ‘escapist;”, and yet I think that humans more often than not operate by “Occams Razor”, and we hate ourselves for it. For me, the theory of evolution is one such example: it seems to neatly explain everything away: perhaps another necessary fiction to keep us going? The paradox is that evolution seems to be consulting “the successiveness of time” and thus, set word against word, and create the need for difficult concords. But somehow, I think it doesn’t really achieve this: there is something too simple about order created by chance that I find unsatisfactory.

    Maybe it’s also the dissonance of love: what we most desire is love (relational love), unconditional love: and yet, we know that no human being deserves this kind of love ( as Zizek claims, love is absurd: it’s assuming the mistake of the universe, and going through with it to the end): and moreover, no human being can offer this kind of love. Maybe a state of confinement helps us realize this: the symbolic self that we present to others is stripped away, so we become free, to love ourselves as we really are? Or we just continue to create fantasies, because reality is unworthy, and unbearable, unloveable.

    Kermode claims that by ignoring the continuity of time, we fake “to achieve the forms absent from the continuous world; we regress towards myth”(176). For him then, the idea of god as outside of time must appear absurd: a too easy fiction. Everything must be subject to time.

    But our universe is not that simple. Time is not that simple. It does not engulf everything in existence, and it is changeable. What about the “Twin Paradox” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_paradox) in which, a twin sent in space, ages slower than one on earth (obviously I’m oversimplifying): but the point is this: time is malleable. Think about black holes too. ( I wish I studied physics…) We know that the universe has a beginning (or at least most scientists are of this opinion): time has a beginning, light has a starting point. We know that the earth will end… why should time not end? My point then is that our fantasy of time, is not the same as time in the real world. Maybe it is possible that things exist outside of time, or that time will end, but our quest is not for the truth, now is it? Our fictions are designed around our own deficiencies… we look down the street, and we don’t see parallel lines, and we come to the conclusion that they don’t exist. Obviously, they do exist. We do not see things outside of time, but our abstract theories prove that they do exist…

    I like Raquel`s idea about death not being a temporality; thus, death becomes a stepping outside of time.

    Paradise, Heaven &`Èden
    ’without the sense of passing time one is virtually ceasing to live, one loses ‘contact with reality’’
    That is why the infinite is a nightmare; why ‘Eden” seems like a nightmare too, or rather “boring”, because life as we know it must possess some kind of dissatisfaction. In paradise we have no “real target to the mind’s eye”(161).
    We find satisfaction in dissonance, because we cannot imagine a perfect world, or a perfect self; as Milton said “without thorn the rose”; the thorn always comes first in our minds. Perfection, paradise, is merely an absence: the absence of pain. A negative.

    As Kermode says, faced with empty modern time, we can come to “invent fictions of time”; I am reminded of the quote: “the universe is made up of stories, not of atoms” Muriel Rukeyser. But what does a fiction of time mean. The passage of time already exists in the universe… the universe IS made up of atoms… and yet we have this compulsion to create relational fictions. We are not creating the passage of time, but only imposing narrative imagination upon it, to make it bearable.

    “Above all, the appetite for hope and consolation is invincible”(163) and we have to reconcile our imaginations with “that pan of putrid soup”, (the problem of evil, or the problem of self, i’m presuming”(164)

    I find this quote fascinating, and it`s also the reason why I almost find Kemode`s argument unsatisfying. The universe does not acquire meaning just because we choose to give it meaning. Our actions do not ACQUIRE importance just because of hindsight. Essence must always preceed existence, or it cannot exist at all. Or, I reject it. It is not a reality, or a symbollic order worth living in. It seems too hypocritical, too inauthentic, too meaningless.

  16. My question after today’s class is this: you experience a street not only by looking at it, but also by walking down the street; thus when you walk down you see that the lines don’t touch. And this is where the abstract concept of parallel lines comes from, it is rooted on real experience. So I am resisting this idea that our abstract notions are so far removed from our real world; and in fact, I believe that sometimes even when we don’t have natural evidence to back up our abstract notions they are non the less true: an abstract notion could even be a truth that we know subconsciously;

    We were subject to gravity before we knew what it was; we felt it’s effects and could not deny it. Today we feel the psychological torment of eternity, god, etc and wish to write these things off, push them to the side, or recreate these pressures in a way we find convenient, but we may after all wake up in eternity, wake up to find the dream real;

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