October 14, 2012

Just thinking about MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and THE TEMPEST, along with attendant contemporary criticism, and it struck me that Post-Colonialism is really a red herring of a term, a canard.  It insists on a distinction that doesn't exist.  Native Asian American colonized the Americas, either killed or made vassals out of the defeated.  There is nothing new here.  It's the Amalekites all over again.  No, the new slant is a shot across the Caucasian Christian bow, it seems to me.  And we, like everyone, do deserve it in large part.  But only because we are newest version of the conqueror.  I love the above plays because they seem to acknowledge this, both the patriarchal order and the feminist and "post-colonial" threats to that.  That's where the tension is in these plays.  That's where the great art is.

But those threats are not intrinsic; they are due to sin.  The ugly father, the portrait and treatment of Caliban (who could be a conscious exaggeration, a challenge to the play-going audience).  Neither play upsets the good order created by the excesses of those who are part of the patriarchy--this contemporary disdain all goes back to the the fact that the Holy Father and all priests are male, to the male Jesus and to God the Father.  Heck, even the Holy Spirit gets a male pronoun in the Gospels.  And all are good, the last three God.  (I think we should have a parade for the patriarchy!  It would be fun.  Can't you picture it?  Down the Geraldine Arts Festival road, complete with big bobbing masks!)

But our new age-y critics, so keen on either-ors, would not have the truth so.  They are fundamentally, at their hearts, anti-Christ.  That is the driving urge behind what they are up to.  To be rid of Jesus and His Church because it claims the Authority that gave it rise.  This is what's behind liberalism as well.  Obama and both Clintons loathe real Christianity, praise Islam whenever they can, no matter how brutal its fundamentalist followers become, because the former has created a good and mostly life-giving world without them (sin aside), because it existed before the did and has accurately delineated the good and bad.  Christianity has created what we have of a tolerant world.  But the people against don't want that.  They want to decide, who lives and eats (them), and who dies (brown babies, courtesy of Margaret Sanger).

This is why liberal want the demise of America.  It's THE RAINBOW FISH with a gun--or a health mandate.

And because American was built by Puritans, the right offers its own death: unrestrained capitalism.  (See JP II sermons when he returned to Poland after the fall of Communism.)

But how sweet would it be to see young Shakespearean Catholic scholars rise up and delicately redirect the "discourse!"

Christ is risen.  Have no fears.  This is His world and He will have His way.

September 30, 2012

We been reading Shakespeare and some critics in my 201 class: Literary Genres and Critical Approaches, and I've been struck by how opaque the critics often are.  First of all, feminist and Marxist/post-colonialists should understand that in 200 hundred years, people will still be reading Shakespeare, not them.  And why is that?  It's because great art is more important to the human family than polemics are.  And great art always involves both meaning and tension; that's what, in large part, makes it great.  So arguing that Shakespeare is either doing this or that (or that all discourses carry the same weight) is to miss the boat.  Odds are, he's doing both.  We've been reading A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and THE TEMPEST.  Both uphold the patriarchy WHILE undercutting it at the same time.  And I would argue, again here, that it is this very tension which holds the whole solution in solution, which makes it art.

The tension between the patriarchy and feminism in the first play and between the patriarchy and post-colonialist concerns in the second are very relevant to us today.  Women, like men, need to be heard: father's can't threaten their daughter's lives if the girl disobeys him. . . . But obedience is crucial to Church, to the family.  Without it there is no revealed order; all we get (today) is chaos.

Jesus and the Father, and the Holy Spirit--if we are to trust the pronoun Jesus appears to give Him in the new testament, are all male.  Sorry.  That's just the way God wanted it.  But a husband who doesn't listen to his wife with the utmost respect is a fool too.  That's the other side of Shakespeare's coin.  Discourses don't like to hear this stuff; for them is so often "either-or."  But Shakespeare is after "meaning," what has been revealed to us.  He's after the tensions associated with the given.  Again, postmodernists don't want to hear that.  For them, all argument, points worth making come down to their egos, senses of the world.

THE TEMPEST does the same thing really.  Artists and rulers must maintain an order which has been given to them.  Few do, but that is the call.  And the first of those rulers is the Roman Catholic Church: the patriarchy secular humanists all seem to systematically despise.  But God has given the Church to us because it respects and offers both "closure" and "opennness," something secular feminist/post-colonialist critics don't have the tools to deliver.  (Without closure, after all, there is chaos, and without openness there is no freedom.)  We all have to work out our salvation in fear and trembling.  How does one discipline his children?  If you have a set of can't miss rules, please pass it along.

A big part of the tension between closure and openness is how does one use authority.  Line 21, Act 1, Scene I: "Use your authority."  How does the patriarchy impose the given?  Badly in most cases--which incidentally is not reason to get rid of it.  (Such either-or thinking is pervasive in both secular humanists and in religious fundamentalists.)  Sin is the cause.  It is the cause.

So praise God for meaning and tension and Shakespeare, and God have mercy on the polemicists, those who walk around bumping their heads into walls.  (And the rest of us who stpend too much of our time doing the same!)  But what a joy it's been to read these plays again . . . and the silly critics!  

September 3, 2012

Saw a pretty twisted movie last evening: THE CRIMSON BOLT.  It was funny, heart-felt, and as crude and violent as it could be.  Had to pray afterwards.  But the thing I really liked about it was the fact that Jesus is like ground water.  Go a half inch deep, and there He is.  The director knew as much, too, if in a twisted SECOND HAND LIONS platonic sort of way.  Justice and good were what the movie was about in the end, both in a world that has gone insane.  Four broken stars.

Speaking of our crazy world and responses to that, we've got Franz Wright coming here in a few weeks.  I love this guy.  No lame Christian leader/winner bull roar.  He cuts through all that.  Give me failure, need, a true sense of our self-sufficiency; that's Wright!

What else?  We're reading A MIDSUMMER NIGHT DREAM.  Shakespeare rocks of course, and though I wasn't surprised by how anti-Catholic the Bedford edition was, I did find it tiresome.  The play's a Boy Bishop celebration of love and mystery: the things we need in life, the things only a healthy Catholic sensibility can give.  The editors are so lame and even.  They need the vestiges of the reformation--which incidentally wasn't over until after the Cromwell murderings--so they can remember everything they aren't.  Pathetic.

Good Queen Bess my ass.  Murderous b-tch if ever there was one.  Made Mary look like a rookie.

The last acceptable prejudice.

July 22, 2012

Small epiphany: so much of my angst, and maybe lots of other people's, has to do with wanting consolation instead of humility.  The former is not relevant, the second, as Eliot says, is endless.  But I don't want the void, I want candy, something shiny, an Alfalfa cowlick!  I need to fall on my face and beg for the latter, moment by moment.  How else do we grow?

We just finished Eliot in 440, moving onto to Williams.  Poor Tom, so brilliant, but such a Puritan that he seems to get so little joy out of living.  (Even if one doesn't feel it, it does tend to come out in the poetry for a Catholic.)  His "Quartets" are great religious poetry, up there with Hopkins, Milton and Dante, I think.  (This is something secular critics never get.  They say the poem is about memory, history.  Fundamentally it is about God's contemplative presence, about how we need to learn to live there, be grateful for that.)  The poem does get to God, but Eliot has trouble enjoying that physically, in his body--though there is that wonderful last poem about his wife, her smell in bed. 

Williams, on the other hand, is often seen as the father of the "no symbol--death to the symbol" postmodern parade--despite the fact that he can be read as a Platonist--his "radiant gist."  He is so alive, walking around astonished like he does.  How can you not love these guys: Stevens and Frost and Moore next.

July 19, 2012

A nice inspiration: what with my writerly self-absorption.  Small penances for others, for whomever Mary might want to give them.  It's not much, but then neither are we.  Anyway, hope it helps!

July 1, 2012

Reread Michael O'Brien's STRANGERS AND SOJOURNERS a few weeks back.  Very nice.  If spirits speak to people, why shouldn't it be in the book!  I recommend it, will assign it for next Contemporary Christian Fiction class.
Reading more of John Tytell's book on the sheriff, Ezra Pound.  The prose is so lame, and I suspect that has everything to do with the Greenwich Village association.  The guy's take on the world could've come out of the 30s there; it made me think, if liberal anti-life humanists didn't have orthodox people to go after they would die of complete lethargy.  Language would perish on the page.

My God, get some life to you, sir.

Picture it.  All the Christians dead.  The only sound: moaning, as one by one they take their own lives.  Either that of each would finally stop moving, give up on food.

"I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly."

In the meantime we get Obama.
Just started reading a new bio on Ezra Pound, by some Greenwich Village writer--all the horrible either/or thinking when it comes to the human condition and religion.  But the facts is good.  Made me think of P's usura.  At the same time I came across, in my readings on St. Anthony of Padua, a tirade against usurers.  As I thought about it, both are right on the money.  Usuary is a major, perhaps the major problem in our culture: making money on money.  It has destroyed the environment, set people against people, created a world where money matters more than people.

When Jesus physically re-establishes Himself on this earth, it will be gone!

In the meantime I wonder how long it will be before we must suffer for our faith.  Obama, Oprah and the boys aren't using guns yet, but one wonders how long it will be until they do.  One thing is sure, we won't hear about it on the news.

Unrelated, saw BRAVE with my son and it occurred to me that Catholic have a huge advantage when it comes to writing fantasy or sci-fi stories (I'm doing a 406, Fiction Writing--this summer) in the current environment.  Why?  Because our world coheres, as Catholics we can write stories which make sense, which feed the readers, and not necessarily because they are overtly Christian.  They can be stealthily so.  But young fiction writers, the world is your oyster.  Find a way to write from a Catholic perspective without tipping your hand, mold that writing to the styles accepted, and bingo, I think we'll be some real big hitting going on.

Praise God.  May it be so.

May 15, 2012

Was watching a little tv this morning, waiting for my son Jude to get ready for his bus: the beginnings of rap, or something like that.  It occurred to me that the racial bond that brought all those artists together was a blessing (of course), but also a bit of a curse.  Group mind.  Merton's herd mentality, America and consumerism too.  Every group runs the risk.  Around here it's the Catholic group mind: the home schooling/great book assemblage.  Scary stuff.  Am way outside that ring, and I don't think it's paranoia to say that I (and many others) are disdained because of that fact.  Better to go down swinging, with boughten self-image at your side. . . .

Another VP appointed yesterday.  Universities everywhere do this sort of thing, it seems to me.  (I have no idea about FUS's motives, so far be it from me to pass judgment.)  It seems like government spending in most cases, no restraint.  The U of Akron created a new position so they could get Jim Tressel.  Couple that with country-wide bookstore fraud, and who pays?  The students--the very people all universities say they are there for.  Every institute of higher learning should pay an outside firm to do a study.  How much of their administration is adipose.  They're all so top heavy.  Welcome to the trough, baby.  (They could do faculty too, that wouldn't hurt.  The country could use more good cab drivers.)

Best books in Contemporary Christian Fiction class: short stories by O'Connor, Powers, and Spark.  (Some of Sparks' are a little tough to latch onto, but she's a great Catholic writer.)  Students didn't like Percy's THE MOVIEGOER, but I think that's because they weren't very good at reading texts to be frank.  My bad in a way.  I assumed they could read fiction--since it was a 300 level course.  Next time I'm got to start at the way beginning.  THE POWER AND THE GLORY is always a favorite.  Endo's DEEP RIVER.  Hansen's MARIETTE was interesting.  Some students objected to all the sexuality though I suggested that the writer walked that line keeps the reader, an edge.  Don't know if I'll do it next time, though.  We also did Bo Caldwell, Mrs. Hansen.  THE DISTANT LAND OF MY FATHERS.  It was okay, nicely Catholic, stealth-style, but I never bought the main character.  We did GILEAD, which is getting old.  We didn't get to Lott on Enger.  Maybe next time.

Students did presents on Bernanos, Miller, Mauriac, Dubus, Waugh, Undset, Rae Thon, and Tyler.  So lots of good stuff, though as I say I have to revamp the course a bit.  The kids in American Poetry made that class a joy to do; the 103s and 332s were great too.  Just a lot of first rate individuals--maybe we're just lucky to get them before they pack up and master ugly virtue.


May 13, 2012

The fundamental problem with America is the two-party system.  The unnatural human perspective each one engenders, comes out of.  This is no surprise, but I wonder why there has not been a concerted push for a third party: Christian Democrats!  (Something like that.)  The left is good with the poor, the right with personal responsibility.  Common sense would dictate that we need to fuse those two aspects.  You can't kill your young, nor can you defecate on the poor (in a trickle or otherwise).

One of the great reads I got to spend time with when I covered for a colleague in MEDIEVAL LIT was PIERS PLOWMAN.  Not only did it offer a great example of effective allegory, something I thought beyond possible, but it also served up a nice portrait of the bitter poor: people who didn't have, who wouldn't work for anything, but who would also bitterly threaten those who had stuff if they didn't feel like sharing.  The wayward section of welfare--that mentality.  Once when I lived on Ridge Ave. in Steubenville I tried to put in an outdoor French drain system, hired a local guy to help.  I didn't have much dough, but it was a bog job, and the guy needed money.  I was shocked at how bitter he became.  He felt like I should pay him more, that there was a basic injustice over the fact that I had more than he did.  The guy calmed a little after I explained that I lived in his neighborhood because I didn't have much either.  But that was my first experience with the bitter poor--those who will surely take to the streets if Obama loses.  (We'll be threatened with that if comrade O is in dire straights as we near the election--just as we were before Clinton got in.) 

Obama won't lose.  The white-wall tire guy, Romney, has no chance.  Throwing him up there is just a sign of how confused the Republicans are--pathetic.  (I always vote Republican for president because I have no choice.  Abortion is not just another issue.  That would be like telling a Jew in '45 that the camps were nothing, really.  On a par with German food stamps. . . . And I know that offends people, but think of it from the Devil's POV.  His whole gig is to wound God.  So he goes after the Chosen, the then after the most innocent, those who have not yet had a chance to offend Him.)

So my question is, will Nancy Pelosi go to hell?  Joe Biden?  How about Oprah (my money's on her)?  The fat, little Catholic who's a liberal on the editorial page?  And what about Glen Beck?  Anybody with a billion dollars who doesn't give half of it to the poor?

Outrageous?  Maybe.

Will the left eventually line us up?  Can't see the right doing it, unless they all grow Mohawks or something.  But both are sorry excuses for parties.  People will be held responsible for what they do; they should be held so now.  Nothing will save us from death, comrade.  And the poor matter, a lot.  They are called "the other."  They are who we are here for.

April 19, 2012

Interesting. We're just beginning to read Endo's DEEP RIVER in Contemporary Christian Literature. Strong opinions there on the oriental mind and scholasticism. Endo was really into French lit., as is one of the women characters. (She's a take-off on Julian Green's MOIRA--is given that nickname.) I don't know what all this means, but it's funny after the last post.

It's a great book, though Endo might drift a little--all religions are equally true (?).

Anyway, bigger forces than we are at work in the world; we get our little jobs, lives in front of us. (Philosophers are people too!)

Just finished a book of poems I'm really proud of. Hope we get a taker soon.

April 18, 2012

Great weekend, last. Venerable Jack came over, and we (he, Linda, and I) ate at the old bus station in downtown Weirton, now called the Fun Cafe, or something. The most difficult waitress ever, nice when she's not hip checking you off your chair. Anyway, J. was talking Marxism, while my son is currently reading Adam Smith for Honors. (I, for my part and commentary play the lottery, which is probably a sin in both worlds. God doesn't let me win, either, so I guess I'm 0-3.)

I was thinking, amid all the corker-iculum melee at school, that philosophy is really just white men talking. Our emphasis on white-hoodedness, and the emphasis of other conservative orthodox institutions perhaps overstates our need to be so steeped and dependent in Western Man (sticking his chest out), though JP II and our philosophers certainly don't think so. (Most Catholics, after all, in the next century will come from Africa and the Far East.)

I asked a dear fellow from philosophy if he valued Plato over Li Po. His answer was unsurprising. But then again, I suppose the powers that be want to raise "thinkers," not poets. (I put that in quotes because I feel pure discursiveness is not a whole enough approach.) Besides, maybe the universities should be trying to create poets, not philosophers.

The machine moves at its own pace, needs none of us. God's will be done. (Not too long ago, I heard some guy on Catholic radio droning on as he taught Aquinas. It was physically painful just to listen. He was pleased with his comprehension and with the fact that the material was more important than any consideration he might have given to actually sounding interesting. I would not be able to go to the college I teach at! It's designed to break creativity. . . Okay, I'm lying about the last part, but only a little bit.)

So what, you say? Who cares if you could go there? And you'd be right!

Poems are their own little world, as is my office, as is my life. Thank God for all three! The forecast for tomorrow is good.