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Play Baal Shem Tov

Compare and Contrast

Quotation A:

I don’t know, Kent.  The planet is sick.  Our mass culture has made a deadly fetish of its stupidity.  I don’t know what the use is of art, or if it’s the uselessness of art that is a bearer of hope, or what.  I certainly cannot see the efficacy, aesthetic or political, of prescribing or proscribing certain poetic modes in advance of the poems themselves.  Regardless, an exclusively literary response to the multifaceted madness of being in this world will never be sufficient in and of itself.

-- Poet/editor Ben Lerner*

Quotation B:

I write for people who delight in life and are curious about many aspects of it and are aware of its tragedy as well as its comedy but who do not adopt a sort of glum attitude which they think is realism!

-- Robertson Davies (1913-1995)**

Discussion Questions:

In which of these worlds do we live? 
In which of these worlds would we prefer to live? 
In which of these worlds would we prefer to believe we live, regardless of whichever it is in which we actually live, and what's to stop us from doing so? 
Which of these quotations is the apple, and which the orange? 
Are apples to be preferred to oranges, or contrariwise? 
Will this be on the final?

Sources:

* In an interview with Kent Johnson, Jacket 26 - October 2004.  (For extra credit discuss, as Ben Lerner does in regard to the sonnet, the "arbitrary, generative violence of any imposed formal constraint."  Nurses are standing by.)

** Quoted in "The Golden Ass: Will We See It Again?", an article on the Canadian Opera Company's 1999 production of the Davies-librettoed opera version of Apuleius' antic antique tale.  Libretto excerpts here.

[Quotations initially found through links at ::: wood s lot :::.]

Comments

Greg

Well, the first is a political worldview, from a particular perspective. The second is a personal worldview from an optimistic (healthy) perspective. I'm currently practicing the latter, but for all the wrong reasons I'm sure. The perspective of the former has eaten away at me. The only problem with Davies' stance is it functions well under a democratic atmosphere. But what happens if things turn for the worse. Imagine such an attitude under Stalin's regime. Which one then would you adopt? The question becomes more difficult then. And politics and judgement aside, there are those who live with that fear. POst-9/11 is a brave new world and God knows where it turns.

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