Remembrance of translations past

From the Public Domain Review — "Although Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff’s translation of À la recherche du temps perdu is considered by many journalists and writers to be the best translation of any foreign work into the English language, his choice of Remembrance of Things Past as the general title alarmed the seriously ill Proust and misled generations of readers as to the novelist’s true intent. It wasn’t until 1992 that the title was finally changed to In Search of Lost Time. “Remembrance of Things Past” is a beautiful line from William Shakespeare’s sonnet 30, but it conveys an idea that is really the opposite of Proust’s own. When Scott Moncrieff chose this title, he did not know, of course, where Proust was going with the story and did not correctly interpret the title, which might indeed be taken to indicate a rather passive attempt by an elderly person to recollect days gone by."

On the supposed illiteracy of scientists

"A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?" (C.P. Snow: "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution")

William James: philosopher of laughing gas

Benjamin Breen in the Paris Review — After huffing a large amount of nitrous oxide, James set out to tackle a prominent bugbear of 1880s intellectual life: Hegelian dialectics. He came up with a stream of consciousness that centered on a kind of ecstatic binary thinking:

Don’t you see the difference, don’t you see the identity? Constantly opposites united! The same me telling you to write and not to write! Extreme—extreme, extreme! Within the extensity that “extreme” contains is contained the “extreme” of intensity Something, and other than that thing! …. By George, nothing but othing! That sounds like nonsense, but it’s pure onsense! Thought much deeper than speech … ! Medical school; divinity school, school! SCHOOL! Oh my God, oh God; oh God!

Liberal Arts, Inc.

According to Glen Edward Avery, Barr thought St. John's had grown too large and feared that its land was about to be seized by the U.S. Navy for its own academy. The first such threat had been made in 1940; St. John's was saved only by the direct intervention of President Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. A 1946 newspaper story says that "the college's Damocles sword again threatened to drop in 1944, by which time St. John's had lost its two greatest friends in the government." The college's board of trustees was unable to get a definite answer from Congress, then in control of Federal land-taking, on whether St. John's land would be taken, and Barr wanted to secure "a home free of the endless menace of eviction."

David Foster Wallace and the Oxford English Dictionary

"Wallace’s writing is cited in almost eighty entries in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which use quotations from his novels, short fiction, and elsewhere. Given his love of esoteric vocabulary, it is not surprising to see David Foster Wallace’s writing cited for words like palpebral (defined in the OED as “relating to the eyelids”), oneiromancy (“the interpretation of dreams to foretell the future”), and presbyopic (“long-sightedness caused by loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye”). However, his writing is also used in entries for words as common as apple, dream, and camera, demonstrating the wide variety of writing and breadth of vocabulary that Wallace used during his career..." Also from David Foster Wallace featured in the Oxford Dictionaries blog: does "all of" have any legitimate uses?

On the importance of the novel

From the Los Angeles Review of Books: "For Adam Smith, what makes us human is not necessarily reason, or speech, or the ability to form concepts, or to establish trade networks, or to create joint-stock companies, or to design communication devices. Instead, it is our unique ability to respond to “sentiments” — the passions and feelings of others. D. H. Lawrence, as Schmidt reminds us, agreed: “It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives,” he wrote. “And here lies the vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead.” American novels explore the sympathetic consciousness in dramatic ways. In Moby-Dick, Ishmael is forced to acknowledge Queequeg’s humanity (“Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.”). In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the conscience of a nation plays out in the mind of an aimless boy. Twentieth century novels turn on the question of sympathy, too. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nathanael West expose the American dream as a dangerous Hollywood fantasy that leads to alienation rather than connection, Hemingway uses plain words to counter the fraudulent valor of statesmen, and Dos Passos proves that history happens behind the headlines and newsreels, in the reality of relationship."

The Point Magazine on Charlie Trotter

The Point Magazine on Charlie Trotter

The New Humanities

The New Humanities

After the Great American Novel

After the Great American Novel