7 jun. 2009

Julia was volunteering at the library. While waiting for her I pulled a book off the shelf by Stanley Cavell. Now Cavell should interest me because of the Wittgensteinian angle, but I had a hard time with his writing, because he isn't very concise. In 40 pages that I read i barely got the sense of what it was all supposed to be about. There was a lot of wordy transitioning and something terribly important sounding that he never quite got around to articulating. He likes to refer at length to other writings of his which presumably explain all this better. I know he admires Wittgenstein, Emerson, Thoreau, Jane Austen, and classic movies, but what is the damned point of it all? Are we just supposed to admire him for admiring all these things?

There are some suggestive ideas, maybe at the ratio of one per 10 pages. The comparison between Austen and Nietzche...

3 comentarios:

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

Yes, he's and odd writer. I have the same difficulty reading him. (Harold Bloom is a bit like this, too, at least for me.) In In Quest of the Ordinary (page 155.157) he points out a strange mistake in Freud's reading of Hoffman. But you're right: he spends most of his time being suggestive about how important certain issues/writers are.

j. dijo...

it's generally best to read cavell's philosophical work in order of publication (and to read wittgenstein and j.l. austin in order along the way), going from 'must we mean…?' to 'the claim of reason' and then the 20-30 years of fallout from those (which become increasingly back-referential, i guess partly out of a belief that he can best motivate what he says by connecting it to something else he has said).

his book on thoreau is far more self-contained; the book on emerson is a late product compiling a variety of essays and so resembles more of his other post-'claim' work. (but throughout his career thoreau and emerson are more like secret spiritual guides and provocateurs he occasionally needs to pay dues to - except in the books about them they're typically not the thematic focus.) up until the 'pedagogical' book that splits discussion of movies with discussion of classics, most of his movie work was pretty self-contained ('world viewed' and then the remarriage stuff). his shakespeare book is similar in that respect (though his othello stuff is still, iirc, mainly taken from the end of 'claim of reason' which makes it a little bit dependent on the previous 500 pages).

Bob Basil dijo...

I had the good luck of being invited to one of his seminar classes -- Shakespeare -- at Harvard a very long time ago. He asked a question that has long stuck with me about literary interpretation: "When a conductor interprets a symphony, he has to make every note serve that interpretation. Does a critic of literature have to account for every bit of the text?"