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TSE  March 2008

TSE March 2008

Subject:

Re: "Zietgeist" (Was Inventions of the March Hare )

From:

Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 20 Mar 2008 11:21:10 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (130 lines)

I'm not sure what you mean by "the elements of German in daily speech,"
but that is misleading here.  The ballad is in Scots, which developed
from Northumbrian.  Modern English developed from Mercian.  Both have
elements of German, and in Scots the sound changes developed later and
less completely than in modern English.  But words like "milk," "house,"
"glass," "wine" remain cognates in English and German.  My point is that
this is not English with some "elements of German": it is Scots with
some sounds and words that are Germanic--since all Anglo-Saxon was a
Germanic language.  Modern Scots retains, for example, three sounds that
do not exist in modern English:  the sounds of "licht," "loch" and
"muir."
Nancy
>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 03/20/08 10:44 AM >>>


Carrol,
 
Language enacts the history of its time; it's a time capsule. It
provides more information than was recognized by the writer. Just as
when a snapshot is taken, neither the subjects nor the photographer
could know how strange hairstyles and clothing and the 1938 Ford will
look to those looking at the picture in the future.
 
"THE king sits in Dumferling toune,
Drinking the blude-reid wine:
‘O whar will I get guid sailor,
To sail this schip of mine?’
 
Up and spak an eldern knicht,
Sat at the kings richt kne:
‘Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor
That sails upon the se.’"
 
Sailing ships, knights, the king, the smallness of a world in which the
best sailors were well-known, and many other factors of the culture of
that time, not the least of which are the elements of German in daily
speech, are communicated in just first stanzas from "Sir Patrick Spens."
 
Another ballad, having the same deep structure of describing a hero, is
the following:
 
"Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,
Killed him a b'ar when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett
King of the Wild Frontier."
 
"West Side Story" and Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" tell the same
story of lovers facing the same obstacles, in other words they have the
same deep structure. Everything else is zeitgeist.
 
The I Ching is based on the metaphysical belief that "everything that
occurs in a moment partakes of that moment." Whether you share that
belief or not, you cannot deny that language incorporates its historical
period. Or, to put it another way, history is inseparable from language.
 
I regret using the word "zeitgeist;" it invites ridicule. No one uses it
anymore, but it does say what I mean:
 
American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition:
Zeitgeist "The general moral, intellectual, and cultural climate of an
era; Zeitgeist is German for "time-spirit." For example, the Zeitgeist
of England in the Victorian period included a belief in industrial
progress, and the Zeitgeist of the 1980s in the United States was a
belief in the power of money and the many ways in which to spend it."
 
Analyzing a work of art for a manifest point-to-point correspondence
with events such as the storming of the winter palace, or the general
strike or lynchings in the south ignores the condensation found in the
language of art. Even the most linear thinker has dreams in which
logical connections are replaced by simultaneity in time. 
 
Julia Kristeva writes in Language The Unknown that dreams act "like the
painter who, in a picture of the school of Athens or of Parnassus,
represents in one group all the philosphers or all the poets. It is true
that they were never in fact assembled in a single hall or on a single
mountaintop; but they certainly form a group...."
 
Whether Eliot placed any credence in Freudian theory or not, if Freud
was correct about the similarity of art language and dream language,
Eliot's poetry would exhibit Freudian insights (birds are not
ornithologists.)
 
Freud wrote: "Dreams are brief, meagre and laconic in comparison with
the range and wealth of the dream-thoughts." The extreme dream-symbols parallels that of literary symbols, which likewise are
over-determined and represent in a single symbol contents that "are
often widely divergent in their nature."
 
So that lynchings in the south may be expressed in a multi-valent symbol
or image whose ostensible referent is not slavery but which is partly
determined by the existence of lyncings in the south. 
 
Van Gogh's dreams, like his paintings, would necessarily include horses,
carriages, gas lamps and absinthe, while a painter in our time would
dream and paint out of an experience of orbiting spy satellites, video
games, cell phones and computers. Both dreams might have the same deep
content, i.e., tell the same story, but the zeitgeist in both cases
finds ways to have its say.
 
Diana
 
> Diana Manister wrote:> > > > At least in TWL the zeitgeist speaks.
 
Carrol wrote:> > 1. I would challenge the existence of any such entity
as the> "Zeitgeist." Any age I know of exhibits too large a variety of
fractured> spirits to speak of _A_ spirit of the age. Put otherwise, I
don't even> know what "spirit of the age" could conceivably mean. It
seems utterly> empty of content.> > 2. Eliot did explicitly deny that
TWL expressed some spirit of> disillusinment of the age or something
like that. Nancy or Marcia could> probably be more explicit on this,
citing the text and correcting my> sloppiness here.> > 3. What does The
Zeitgeist say? Storming of the Winter Palace? The> General Strike?
Lynchings in the South? (TWL follows by only a couple> decades Twain's
masterpieces, "The United States of Lyncherdom" and "To> The Person
Sitting in Darkness." The resignation, protesting Wilson's> War Policy,
of William Jennings Bryan: that is his true heritage, not> the stupid
trial? My great uncle, who organized sheepherders in Montana> for the
IWW. Beginning of the (hopeless?) struggle to end English 1 (its>
inventor called it the greatest mistake of his life)? The murder of
Rosa> Luxemberg? The Easter Rebellion? The failure to hang the various
war> criminals (all responsible politicians of Germany, France, England,
&> U.S.) Imprisonment of Gene Debs? Freeing of Gene Debs by the only
honest> u.s. president in the 205h c. -- Warren G. Harding?> > 4. When
did this Zeitgeist leap into existence, and when did it sink> into the
grave? Would we recognize it were we to meet it walking down a> dark
alley?> > And so forth.> > Carrol
_________________________________________________________________
How well do you know your celebrity gossip?
http://originals.msn.com/thebigdebate?ocid=T002MSN03N0707A

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