Log24

Friday, June 26, 2020

Persons and Operators and Things

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 4:13 PM
Harvard University Press on a book,
Persons and Things,
it published on March 31, 2010

Moving effortlessly between symbolist poetry and Barbie dolls, artificial intelligence and Kleist, Kant, and Winnicott, Barbara Johnson not only clarifies psychological and social dynamics; she also re-dramatizes the work of important tropes—without ever losing sight of the ethical imperative with which she begins: the need to treat persons as persons. In Persons and Things , Johnson turns deconstruction around to make a fundamental contribution to the new aesthetics. She begins with

the most elementary thing we know:
deconstruction calls attention to
gaps

and reveals that their claims upon us are fraudulent. Johnson revolutionizes the method by showing that the inanimate thing exposed as a delusion is central to fantasy life, that fantasy life, however deluded, should be taken seriously, and that although a work of art “is formed around something missing,” this “void is its vanishing point, not its essence.” She shows deftly and delicately that the void inside Keats’s urn, Heidegger’s jug, or Wallace Stevens’s jar forms the center around which we tend to organize our worlds.

The new aesthetics should restore fluidities between persons and things. In pursuing it, Johnson calls upon Ovid, Keats, Poe, Plath, and others who have inhabited this in-between space. The entire process operates via a subtlety that only a critic of Johnson’s caliber could reveal to us.

I prefer the more straightforward insanity of  Operators and Things .

Barbara Johnson reportedly died on Aug. 27, 2009.  See that date
in other posts now tagged Autistic Enchantment. (That phrase is
the sort of sneering tag one may expect from deplorable academics.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday September 15, 2009

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 2:02 PM
In memory of
Harvard literature professor
Barbara Ellen Johnson
(Oct. 4, 1947 –
 Aug. 27, 2009)

“…one has to be willing
to tolerate ambiguity,
even to be crazy.”

“Bohr’s words?”

“The party line….”

— Quotation from
Secret Passages linked to on
 the date of Johnson’s death

“Yes and no (what else?).”
— Barbara Johnson in
The Wake of Deconstruction

Related material:


Harvard Crimson obituary
and a
Funeral Service obituary
with comments.

For more on ambiguity,
see this journal’s entries of
 March 7, 8, and 9, 2007.

For more on craziness,
see this journal’s entries of
March 10, 2007.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursday September 3, 2009

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 11:07 AM
Autistic Enchantment

“Music and mathematics are among the pre-eminent wonders of the race. Levi-Strauss sees in the invention of melody ‘a key to the supreme mystery’ of man– a clue, could we but follow it, to the singular structure and genius of the species. The power of mathematics to devise actions for reasons as subtle, witty, manifold as any offered by sensory experience and to move forward in an endless unfolding of self-creating life is one of the strange, deep marks man leaves on the world. Chess, on the other hand, is a game in which thirty-two bits of ivory, horn, wood, metal, or (in stalags) sawdust stuck together with shoe polish, are pushed around on sixty-four alternately coloured squares. To the addict, such a description is blasphemy. The origins of chess are shrouded in mists of controversy, but unquestionably this very ancient, trivial pastime has seemed to many exceptionally intelligent human beings of many races and centuries to constitute a reality, a focus for the emotions, as substantial as, often more substantial than, reality itself. Cards can come to mean the same absolute. But their magnetism is impure. A mania for whist or poker hooks into the obvious, universal magic of money. The financial element in chess, where it exists at all, has always been small or accidental.

To a true chess player, the pushing about of thirty-two counters on 8×8 squares is an end in itself, a whole world next to which that of a mere biological or political or social life seems messy, stale, and contingent. Even the patzer, the wretched amateur who charges out with his knight pawn when the opponent’s bishop decamps to R4, feels this daemonic spell. There are siren moments when quite normal creatures otherwise engaged, men such as Lenin and myself, feel like giving up everything– marriage, mortgages, careers, the Russian Revolution– in order to spend their days and nights moving little carved objects up and down a quadrate board. At the sight of a set, even the tawdriest of plastic pocket sets, one’s fingers arch and a coldness as in a light sleep steals over one’s spine. Not for gain, not for knowledge or reknown, but in some autistic enchantment, pure as one of Bach’s inverted canons or Euler’s formula for polyhedra.”

— George Steiner in “A Death of Kings,” The New Yorker, issue dated September 7, 1968, page 133

“Examples are the stained-glass windows of knowledge.” —Nabokov

Quaternion rotations in a finite geometry
Click above images for some context.

See also:

Log24 entries of May 30, 2006, as well as “For John Cramer’s daughter Kathryn”– August 27, 2009— and related material at Wikipedia (where Kathryn is known as “Pleasantville”).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday August 27, 2009

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 3:09 PM
The Shining
of Lucero

For John Cramer’s
daughter Kathryn

(continued from
September 24, 2002)

“Mathematical relationships were
enough to satisfy him, mere formal
relationships which existed at
all times, everywhere, at once.”

Broken Symmetries, 1983

X
X
X

See also Art Wars at
The New Criterion

(Jan. 19, 2007) and the
 four entries preceding it.

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