Hamlet, 3.4

This scene, like the scene that opens Act 3, shows Hamlet encountering a woman who in his mind has betrayed him. Again, he has been sent for, and probably suspects that it is another setup like the one with Ophelia. He has just come from the play, ready to drink hot blood and to kill, and he is . . . . Continue Reading »

Pierre and Hamlet

FO Matthiessen described Melville’s Pierre as “an American Hamlet,” a novel that attempts to “translate” Shakespeare into 19th-century American life. In part, this is a matter of Melville matching characters and plots: “Lucy’s pale innocence fails Pierre as . . . . Continue Reading »

Metaphysics of presence

Derrida, famously, challenges what he calls the metaphysics of presence. What is challenging is not the reality of presence as such, but the notion that we can arrive at some pure presence of a thing, a moment, a self that is unmixed with anything other than itself. A pure instant of time that is . . . . Continue Reading »

How Deconstruction Works

Culler offers an example from Nietzsche that provides an excellent example of the ju-jitsu of deconstruction. Nietzsche argues that causality is not something given, but is the product of a rhetorical operation, a chronological reversal ( chronologische Umdrehung ). I feel a pain, and go searching . . . . Continue Reading »

New Criticism and theory

At the beginning of his book on Deconstruction , Jonathan Culler notes that critical theory, seen “as an attempt to establish the validity or invalidity of particular interpretive procedures,” is profoundly indebted to New Criticism: This movement “not only instilled the . . . . Continue Reading »

Thoughts on Beowulf

All page numbers are from the Heany translation. The central focus of the first two fights is Heorot, the mead-hall of Hrothgar. The mead-hall is the focus of a complex of imagery. (The last fight has a similar origin, as Beowulf’s hall is destroyed by the dragon. The house is a place where . . . . Continue Reading »

Christianization of Germanic Lit

Beowulf reflects the tensions between the Christian culture spreading throughout Northern Europe and the pagan cultures into which it came into conflict. The poem has its place within this clash of civilizations in the first 500 years AD. It is a product of the history of missions. The Germanic . . . . Continue Reading »

Still more on Hamlet

SERPENT KING Among other things, Hamlet is a dramatic reflection on philosophical anthropology: What is a man? and What are the conditions of human experience and existence? This is related to the theme we explored a few weeks ago under the heading of “action”: What are the rules and . . . . Continue Reading »

Mark’s Meta-Irony

Mark is known for the understated irony of his gospel, but there is a large-scale irony overarching the book that is worthy of Sophocles. Readers know from the first verse of the gospel that Jesus is Son of God, and that title is used periodically through the gospel by the Father and by demons. But . . . . Continue Reading »

Renaissance Self-Criticism

What characterizes the Renaissance sensibility of the self? Two things, perhaps: First: not the playing of roles, but the consciousness of playing roles, the consciousness that creates an ironic distance between role and role-player. Richard II is entirely expressed in his assigned role; Henry V . . . . Continue Reading »