Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Disciplinarities

A difference between philosophy and literary studies: in philosophy, the distinction between a piece of “commentary” or “secondary literature” & a piece of new philosophizing is far less clear-cut than the distinction between a piece of literary criticism & a new work of literature. In the latter field, the commentary almost never gets read as a literary text in its own right (with some very rare exceptions – Lawrence on American literature, Olson on Melville, Zukofsky on Shakespeare – but even then, such books are often put in a special category of “poets’ criticism”). On the other hand, Kripke on Wittgenstein, Heidegger on Hölderlin, Derrida on Heidegger, Cavel on Thoreau and Emerson, all of these seem every bit as important as other works by the same philosophers less directly moored to previous texts.
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Wittgenstein: “People nowadays think that scientists exist to instruct them, poets, musicians, etc. to give them pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them – that does not occur to them.” (Culture and Value, 36e)
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An undergraduate philosophy professor of mine, newly arrived in southwestern Virginia, meets his backwoods girlfriend’s father and introduces himself as a philosopher. “A philosopher? So, what’re some o’ yer sayins?”
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Zukofsky on Shakespeare in prose (Bottom: on Shakespeare) every bit as “poetic” as Zukofsky on Mallarmé in verse (“A”-19).