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.
1999 & 2007
In 1989, in the wake of the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, the editors of Public Culture, Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge, wrote an editorial critical of the way many Western intellectuals and the Western media defended Rushdie and castigated the Islamic leaders and crowds who were denouncing The Satanic Verses and threatening its author. They questioned the excesses and ethnocentrism in the outcries, including Rushdie’s, against Islamic politics and saw in Western liberals’ attitudes an ethnocentric attachment to Enlightenment interpretations of free speech. . . .