Sunday, December 4, 2016

Emanations available through Jayde Design

Emanations, International Authors' annual anthology of fiction, poetry and essays, is now available through Jade Design.

Please click HERE to view the Emanations page.

Please click HERE to view the homepage.  Jade Design features a range of hard-to-find and collectable titles. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 2, 2016

More Brain Bugs in the News

Fine art is one thing, but what Highbrow is really about is brain bugs and their activities.  Recently, as reported here, famed brain bug Jack Ma had some useful things to say about globalization.

Now adding to the Highbrow roster of brain bugs is his excellency Agustin Carstens, who has just resigned his post as Central Bank Chief in Mexico.  I think I speak for brain bugs and highbrows world-wide when I say that Agustin will be missed, and let's hope he soon finds another job so we might continue to follow his work and learn more about brain bugs, their natural history, and the wonderful things they do.

Agustin Carstens, former Chief, Mexico Central Bank

Brain Bug from the planet Klendathu, seen here in conference with Earth scientists

Thursday, December 1, 2016

John Dugdale Bradley of Milton's Cottage to visit the WAH Center


John Dugdale Bradley, Trustee of Milton’s Cottage Trust, Buckinghamshire, England, has been  invited to speak at the Milton Society of America's annual dinner in Philadelphia on 7th January 2017 to launch the Paradise Maintain’d Endowment Fund. This effort seeks to raise endowment funds of $5,000,000 over the next two years to sustain Milton's Cottage.

The Yuko Nii Foundation will also be seeking funds in 2017 to build an elevator to the Mansard roof area where the permanent collection is kept. Among the holdings is the Milton Collection of historical art and artifacts. The forward room of the Mansard roof has beautiful views from windows that oversee the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines.

John will be at the WAH Center January 9th at 11 A.M. to meet with Yuko Nii and Terrance Lindall to discuss where they can mutually take their common interest in the perpetuation of the Milton Legacy. Terrance believes that efforts in 2017 celebrating the 350th anniversary of the publishing of Paradise Lost can successfully launch this fundraising campaign for both institutions. 

The fundraising campaign could be high profile and promote not only Milton's legacy but the study of humanities in general. In 2008 Yuko Nii and Terrance Lindall hosted a celebration for Milton's 400th birthday.

Some of the Yuko Nii Foundation's Milton collection will be on display on January 9th for John's visit. After a tour of the building, a light luncheon will be served in the grand reception hall around 12 noon.

Those interested in helping with this exciting fundraising campaign should contact Terrance Lindall:

Milton dictating PL, collection of the Yuko Nii Foundation

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Mayflower Compact

The original document has been lost. William Bradford recorded several versions.  Here is one of those,  rendered (somewhat) in modern English:
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.
Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1899

Please click HERE for more.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Analysis of messes: "A Mess"

     A Mess

Making messes
Cleaning up messes
Moving from one mess to another
Talking about messes
Finding messes
Avoiding messes
Buying messes
Selling messes
Hearing about messes
Regretting messes
Laughing at other people's messes
Wondering about messes
Making more messes
Discovering you've made a mess previously not seen as a mess
Watching something turn into a mess
Watching a mess turn into something
Messing around
Letting people know they better not mess around with you
Messing around with other people
Dealing with people who are messes
Stepping into a mess
Learning from messes
Learning from other people's messes
Not learning from messes: yours or another's
Seeing messes for what they are
Avoiding more messes
Reminiscing with an old mess
Enjoying messes
Writing poems about messes
Not having anything more to say about messes
Having more to say about messes
Pronouncing the last word on messes

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Krishna" by Nicholas Roerich

To learn more about Nicholas Roerich, please clock HERE.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Butterworth in Berlin

I recently learned Michael Butterworth will be in Berlin this Saturday, 5 November, 8 pm at the Posh Teckel bar in Neukölln, to discuss his new book, The Blue Monday Diaries.  To view the announcement for the event, please click HERE.

Dave Jenning's review of the book can be viewed HERE.

To view the Amazon description and purchase the book, please click HERE.

My musical tastes range from Beethoven quartets to free-form avant-garde "highbrow" jazz, and thus, from what I see here, I am a bit circumspect about New Order and their scene. I am very interested, however, in Mr. Butterworth's poetry and fiction; and his wide-ranging publishing projects--always unique and often ingenious--represent material for continual investigation and reflection.  I am curious, therefore, to read this new book and see what kind of light he throws upon our understanding of this sector of popular culture, which, in the case of New Order, suggests the fascinating phenomenon of young people not fully aware of what they are doing in "the arts", and yet nevertheless succeeding--and what ever that "success" might mean.  These are important questions, and I am confident that when it comes to engaging such issues Michael Butterworth's new book is absolutely candid and fully delivers.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Caliban's Admonition

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

--The Tempest 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ancient of Days with Tessa B. Dick this Sunday

Tessa B. Dick's streaming radio program Ancient of Days airs this Sunday 6 p.m. Pacific, 9 p.m. Eastern. Please click HERE to listen. 

If you are not near the internet, call in to listen over the phone.  Press "1" to ask a question:
(347) 324-3704
Overseas?  Call in using Skype, using the same number.  Times as follows:

2:00 a.m. London....  3:00 a.m. Paris...  6:30 a.m. New Delhi...  10:00 a.m. Seoul.

Tessa B. Dick is the widow of legendary novelist Philip K. Dick.  Among her many books is a new memoir, Story Time with Philip K. Dick (Kindle edition).   Please click HERE to view the Amazon description.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Jose Eduardo Reis reviews Critical Synoptics

The following review appeared in Utopian Studies, Spring 2002:

IN THE SECOND CHAPTER of part one of Carter Kaplan's Critical Synoptics, the author proposes a duality within the field of literary judgement between those critics who play their "reading games" on the basis of a clinical, authoritarian and analytical posture and those who tend to convey the value of literary texts on the basis of an aesthetic reading. Kaplan's conceptual inventiveness allows him to generate distinct portmanteau words to characterize their corresponding modus operandi: "cat-alytic" for the former type of critic, who operates as a "catalyst in the sense that he remains unchanged while transforming the character of what he criticizes" (71), and "synaesthetic" for the latter, who seeks to synthesize "familiar objects and patterns in new forms which either reveal or alter their aesthetic values" (71). Yet nothing is said about the duality that may exist in the academic world "species", between, for instance, anonymous referees of scholarly journals, members of doctoral examination boards, teachers of art and literature, professional conference attenders and book editors. Where, then, would I fit in? Into which intellectual category would the book reviewer be subsumed, what sort of attributes and idiosyncrasies might I have to display in my scholarly reading of a book on Menippean satire and the analysis of intellectual mythology, had Kaplan set down, as he did for the "species" of literary critics, a "table of dialectical traditions" for book reviewers? In accordance with which set of properties defining the "mechanism", "criteria", "agenda of expression", "mode", "orientation", "antecedents", "political system", "process" and "motivational factors" of book reviewing would I be operating? The question, far from being inappropriate for the practical purposes of this review, bears witness to the originality of Kaplan's book, in so far as it mimics the self-satirizing mechanism of his highly sophisticated "textual games". These consist of critical analyses inspired both by the literary genre of Menippean Satire and by Wittgenstein's philosophical inquiries into language as mystification. Presented as a series of hermeneutic exercises eclectically combining both literary and philosophical discourse, Kaplan's analyses focus on discreet themes, ranging from works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville and Jules Verne, through examples of literary dystopias, to theoretical issues of our post Cold War era, such as Stuart Kauffman's complexity theory, artificial intelligence, and information technologies in the service of the global dissemination of what he calls "ideological capitalism". But what is Menippean Satire, after all? Of what does Critical Synoptics consist?

From the very beginning of his book, Kaplan claims (not without an all too post-modern fear of being misunderstood by his readers) his intellectual affinity and allegiance with the ideals of the Enlightenment. Given that the genesis of these ideals was marked by a naive and triumphalistic overconfidence in the power of human reason to make unlimited progress in all fields of "interior" and external knowledge, one can understand his posture as an attempt to update the validity of those very ideals, though without naivete, without triumphalism, yet with a dash of satire. Thus Kaplan's main theoretical purpose is to take up again the rationalist agenda of critical inquiry insofar as this implies a clarification of our world view and the erasing of false and misleading intellectual "idols"--to use Bacon's terminology. For this purpose, the author draws on Menippean Satire (M.S.), calling it both an "art", a fictive yet plausible mode of investigating the manifold domains of human experience, and a "genre", a powerful hermeneutic device for surgically removing all sorts of mythical, religious, ideological, philosophical and scientific "idols"--past and present--that the conceptually-confused human mind projects onto the real world. Kaplan approaches the meaning, distinctiveness, formal content and functional purpose of M.S. by means of a threefold perspective: philosophical, theological and post-modern.

The philosophical approach allows the author to identify parallels between the procedures of this "oldest and most trenchant form of literary/critical analysis" (26) and British empiricism (in general) and, in particular, its twentieth century offspring, the later Wittegenstein of the Philosophical Investigations (P.I.). Though the congruence between M.S. and P.I. is not absolute, the former being a literary genre, the latter a treatise in logic, they share, according to Kaplan, the same kind of purposes: they deflate language that is devoid of substance and context, and identify distorted conceptual representations of the real world. In an allusion to Wittgenstein's contextualization of the uses/games of language, Kaplan calls his hermeneutical essays "critical synoptics", a procedure "that can be used to refer to a number of analytical activities" (75) and which is actually illustrated by the thematic variety and disparity of Kaplan's own book. Critical synoptics "refers to the examination of the influences of context, scenario, and lexical/syntactical precision upon the meanings of propositions and concepts" (75). In so far as synoptic analysis comprises narrative dissections of the uses/games of language, Kaplan seems to regard M.S. as a literary version of critical synoptics.

In Kaplan's view, the analogy between M.S. and theology can be discerned in the modus operandi of negative or "Apophatic Theology" (A.T.), since both M.S. and A.T. have as a common analytical goal the dissipation of conceptual error: A.T. by stressing the limitations of human knowledge in categorizing God's being, and M.S. by undermining all dogmatic and monist explanations of the world.

The Post-Modern (P.M.) approach to M.S. allows Kaplan to argue that skepticism is common to the intellectual attitudes and literary practices of both, since they share a deep mistrust of the great designs of conceptually closed world models. Rather, they articulate the cautious observation of the particular, the humorous promotion of sensibility and the more sober strategy of recognizing what it is not. For Kaplan, skepticism and dogmatism constitute the two main categories of the "Homo sapiens culture" (33). While utterly absent from the dogmatic codifications of the world, the use of humor, irony and parody, and the lampooning of self-importance, lack of common sense, and the mechanical and pedestrian platitudes of lifeless lives are all devices tinged with skepticism. Having long underpinned the best of literature, they now permeate post-modern fiction, and define the specificity of the M.S. genre. Indeed, in Kaplan's thesis, since its invention in the third century B.C., M.S has been ever-present in western literature.

Seemingly identical in its purposes to Occam's razor against all types of pretentious metaphysical confabulations and verbal follies, M.S. nevertheless is protean, with no fixed formal pattern and, in essence, semantically heterogeneous. In the second section of his book, Kaplan refers to canonic novels, in particular Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance, Melville's Moby Dick and The Confidence Man, and Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, that function as literary examples of M.S. and whose narrative strategies, in Kaplan's reading, use critical synoptics to exorcise the "specter" of intellectual mythologies, whatever form they may take--abstract belief systems, crude idealizations, or blind faith in science.

According to Northrop Frye, quoted and paraphrased by Kaplan, "the Menippean satirist piles up an enormous mass of erudition about his theme or in overwhelming his pedantic targets with an avalanche of their own jargon. In same cases it can take the form of an encyclopedic farrago" (48). Indeed, the profuse and ingeniously articulated information deployed by Menippean satirists in their acute dissections of mystifying idolatry, are quite appropriate to the critic's "art", whatever be the item under scrutiny. In this sense, the varied scholarly sources Kaplan uses in his discursive analyses, and the wide spectrum of their discrete thematic configurations are the means through which the author reflexively plays the Menippean satirical game of critical synoptics.

Hostile to reductionist or mechanical explanations of a reality made up of an infinity of discrete phenomena, the Menippean satirist draws up lists, tables of classification, nomenclatures and categorizations of all kinds on the most disparate subjects, with the ironic purpose of demonstrating ad absurdum and thereby undermining any dogmatic, inductive and generalist system of explanation. Kaplan plays the game masterfully: with inventiveness, as when he conceives the table of dialectical traditions of criticism, or when he arranges paradigms of British philosophy and literature in two columns, one headed Sense, the other Sensibility, after Jane Austen's novel (112-13); with humor, as when he characterizes Moby Dick scholars under the three headings of "seekers and divers", "scribes" and "readers" (114-17); or even didactically, as when he proposes a fourfold typology of the entire textual and reading universe--the "artifact" (a sort of bibliographical analytical approach), the "scriptural" (based on a philological perusal), the "subtextual" (an extra-literary, psycho-sociological reading) and the postmodern "supersubtextual" game "played in a hall of mirrors, where author, character, setting, critic, ideology and culture reflect upon one another" (63).

In the last section of his book Kaplan has another didactical schemata in which he presents exemplars of books and films that are either dystopian or satirical. Here, the author stretches his concept of synoptic analysis to encompass what he broadly defines as programmed texts, that essentially consist of models of social and cosmic totality.

These literary or theoretical narratives exhibit various "programs" of fictional regimentation and epistemic categorization of social and phenomenal reality, either ironically (as in dystopias), or positively (as in scientific theories). The originality of this schemata lies in the fact that, contrary to what is generally held in the field of utopian studies (e.g. Kumar's Utopia & Anti-Utopia in Modern Times), Kaplan does not consider dystopia to be a dialectic development of the utopian literary genre, but as an outcome of Menippean Satire, adopting the same reasoning as those authors (e.g. Elliott's The Shape of Utopia: Studies in a Literary Genre) who differentiate utopias from other contiguous literary forms. Before identifying the differences, Kaplan points out what literary dystopia (L.D.) and M.S. have in common: besides being "highly literary", both of them "are concerned with intellectual mythology,
which they critique by exploring the interrelationships that exist among ignorance, intolerance, conflict, brutality, euphemism, passivity, scientism and various modern orthodoxies" (147). In Kaplan's view, insofar as dystopias have their roots in M.S., they exhibit traits of satire, in that they do not primarily dispense invective at human brutality, but rather aim to deflate intellectual mystification. Thus the author views Gulliver's Travels as the key text that reveals the "satiric antecedent to literary dystopia" (148): in the first, second and fourth books, Swift portrays the brutality common to most dystopias, but in the third book--a parody of Bacon's New Atlantis--the scorn he pours on a dictatorship of scientists, is seen by Kaplan as the "generic forerunner of the literary dystopia." (148). Yet Kaplan's primary aim is not so much to rewrite the genealogy of dystopia, identifying satire as its precursor. Notwithstanding their common role in the analysis of intellectual mythology, they use distinct strategies to achieve this aim. It is from this standpoint that the author writes his inventory of their differences. The use of humor is the first evident contrast between L.D. and M.S. As Kaplan says, "[e]xcept in rare instances, literary dystopia is not funny" (147); nonetheless, while "satire locates conceptual confusion and intellectual mythology in the present and provides diagnosis", (147) dystopia "uses fiction to portray institutions based on intellectual mythology and essays prophecy, and prognostication" (147). According to the author, what also differentiates these two literary forms is the scope of their own criticism of intellectual mythology, with M.S. directed more towards an examination of conceptual flaws and language fireworks, and L.D. targeting "the possible effects intellectual mythology can have on individuals and society" (147). A formula is then provided for testing the difference between the two literary forms: "[i]f the work describes how bad things are, you have a satire on your hands. If the work describes how bad things could be, you are tangling with a dystopia" (148). It is important to add, in my opinion, that both L.D. and M.S. narrative "descriptions", being non-mimetic, imaginary representations of reality, illustrate the idea that only through distortion and amplification, through the cultivation of irony and hyperbole, can literature fulfill its role of analyzing idols.

In line with his emphasis that L.D. is the child of M.S., whose "primary foci are not despots or corrupt statesmen, but rather schoolmen and academies" (148), Kaplan points to the diluted, transmuted and contaminating presence of M.S. within L.D., referring to "various curricular debates in satire" that have dealt with issues central to L.D. (148). These debates ranged various opposing traditions and canons of
knowledge against each other (e.g. philosophy vs. sophistry, tradition vs. modernity, technology vs. humanism). Originally a satirical theme, "the curricular debate", according to Kaplan, was deployed in Aristophanes's Clouds, in Petronius's Satyricon, in Swift's Battle of the Books, before being transmigrated into other forms and incorporated into later dystopias such as C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading, and Burgess's Byrne.

The cover of Carter Kaplan's Critical Synoptics is a oxymoron that reflects the author's contradictory hermeneutic device of blending the rigorous philosophical analysis of language with the sophisticated language games of Menippean Satire so as to simultaneously pursue the tasks of inquiry and demonstration:

* inquiry into the "spectral" uses of hollow concepts--the idols--and demonstration of the "spectral" literary uses of language as an instrument of such an inquiry;

* inquiry into false intellectual mythology, or in Wittgenstein's words, "the bewitchments of our intelligence by means of language" (59), and demonstration of genuine, or in Kaplan's words, "transformational" mythology--the archetypal perception of the world flowing through the creative language of the poets;

* inquiry into multiple language games and demonstration that there is nothing to be demonstrated beyond the limits of language;

* inquiry into the ways of expressing the correspondence between language and facts, and demonstration that the poetic truth of reality cannot be grasped by using fixed categories, only suggested by their continual revising and by the influx of imagery.

Kaplan, it seems to me, instead of the Greek and the Roman, opted for the Hebraic model of scholarship and literary representation, as sketched out by Blake and described by Auerbach, respectively. The oxymoron of the book cover is an additional evidence of such a choice: a woodcut displays the biblical myth of David beheading Goliath and, in doing so, portrays the allegorical death of the monster of intellectual mythology at the hands of common sense and mythical poetic truth, using, of course, the sling of Menippean satire.

Jose Eduardo Reis
Universidade de Tra-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD), Portugal

Critical Synoptics can be purchased through Amazon:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Normative Ethics

After is-ought, the conversation ceases to be about philosophy, and philosophers cease to be philosophers. They become--well, just what is it are they doing? Advising?

Normative Ethics pushes the envelope into an alternative epistemological context, requiring, perhaps, a corresponding shift in the sense we use to explore its arguments. Upon seeing a memorandum from a board of philosophers charged with examining Ethics courses for state-wide transfer, one retired VPAA said, "I recognize the stench."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016