Something in the world forces us to think…
It may be grasped in a range of
affective tones: wonder, love,
— Gilles Deleuze
"Hymn to Intellectual Beauty"/Mont Blanc
Shelley’s thought has always been swiftly labeled. He is a Platonist, an atheist, and a revolutionary. That these three commitments—or self-designations—do not fit easily together seldom keeps readers from ignoring the caveat proffered by W. K. Wimsatt regarding “the conflict between French atheism and Platonic idealism which even in Prometheus Unbound Shelley was not able to resolve.” Platonism seems to announce itself in the very title of “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” and the exclamation in “Mont Blanc” that “the wilderness has a mysterious tongue” whose teachings, if fully heard, might reconcile man with nature gives the idea of “nature” a force similar to that associated with Rousseau of exposing all societal artifice, convention, and wrong….
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
These lines open the third and final stanza of “Ode on Melancholy” and seem to express the thematic node of the poem: melancholy arises because whatever is beautiful dies, because pleasure arcs from ache of anticipation to poison of fulfillment, and because joy departs as soon as it is realized….
Something rang false back when President Biden announced that the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan would occur on September 11, 2021. Twenty years to the day since al-Qaeda hijacked UAL 175 and 93 and AA 11 and 77 and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania rather than, thanks to the action of passengers, the White House. What sort of commemoration did he have in mind? Not the defeat of the Taliban. Not the restoration of sovereignty to Afghanistan. What was the withdrawal to be a completion of? Not the so-called war on terrorism. Not a peace agreement among Afghans. . .
From the Archive.
Marxist cultural theorists and literary critics have always resisted and attempted to overcome the debilitating effects of the inaugural paradigm of Marxist cultural theory. Just as the historians’ attempts to reinsert the formative processes of culture and politics into the analysis of class and collective action are either distorted by the paradigm’s limitations or have to break down its most basic premises, so too our efforts at cultural interpretation and literary criticism within the intellectual-political tradition of Marxism encounter such limitations and breaks. . . .