Thursday, January 13, 2011

a bracelet of bright hair about the bone

salutations! my name is courtney and it is a pleasure to meet you, potential reader, here in this blogosphere land or however the kids referring to it these days. i am new to the blogging world and really have no idea what i am doing, at least technically. that is okay, though.

i will sally forth into this post with makeshift confidence and leave introductory or master-plan (which may or may not exist) comments for another time.

so. second semester of my fourth year at u of t began this week, and today was the first meeting session for a fourth year seminar on english poet <<john donne>>. he wrote in the seventeenth century and is considered a "metaphysical poet" - a critical term used by johnson, t.s. eliot, and others to describe the fact that he wrote from an abstract rather than sensual perspective.

it made me wonder, of course, about the age-old dichotomy of 
cerebral / sensual
abstract / concrete
mind / body
and how this has been constructed over time. have we begun to reconcile it? can we overcome or transcend this divide? so i hummed and hawed...

my meditations were rudely impinged upon, however, by the asshole prof, whom my friend <<e.>> later confessed to have quickly developed a crush on. a flabbergasting revelation! i mean, okay, objectively he is a hot older man, but allow me to give you a representation of how the class proceeded under his extreme asshole-y discourse:

PROF: "okay, this is a class about john donne. sounds simple enough, right? but know that a great number of you will drop this course after today because most of your lazy minds simply won't grasp the greatness of his poetic output. you will be humbled, degraded, intimidated. so if you can't meet my challenge - to tackle these texts with the rigor of a tri-athlete, coached by yours truly - then get out."

CLASS: (sits up straight and smooths papers importantly. the minority scowls secretly.)

PROF: "now, studying english is a sport. it's a bloody competition. john donne is our target and our challenge is to rip him open and conquer him. like, we have to prove to the sciences that we can be just as rigorous and demanding as they. i just want to prepare you for the reality that english, like the rest of the university, is prepared to either mould you into what we want or cut you down. so i dare you to stay in this class."

CLASS: (feels challenged, wants to ironically prove him wrong by playing by his rules.)

alright, so that was an extreme representation. but that was definitely the gist, the overall vibes i came away feeling. despite hating the prof, i was very intrigued by mr. donne himself. i am intrigued in particular by a line we read together in class, and the title of this post:

"a bracelet of bright hair about the bone."

i am intrigued by the juxtaposition of vitality and bleakness, life and death. i am intrigued by the irony of this image - the idea that two or more things (and thus ultimately nothing) can be true at once - paired with the notion that donne was "obsessed" with unity and wholeness.

this image, i feel, indirectly gets at what i want to explore in this blog: the idea that current postmodern thought, which cuts down meaning and reduces it to an endless slaw of circuitous irony, can be transcended, or at least reunited with sincerity. call it post-postmodernism, call it reconstructionism, call it the new sincerity, call it whatever. call me an idealist or just a failed hipster. all i'm suggesting is that perhaps in music, in art, in literature, in popular thought, there are stirrings of some kind of desire to reclaim meaning and sincerity and a sense of communion with 'the other,' while remaining aware and critical of the problems of modern and pre-modern conventions. surely there is a way to be both, right? surely we can we self-deprecating about our experience as humans, while also finding beauty in it?

to quote something by someone,
"utopia is dead, so long live utopia."

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