June 27, 2016

James Joyce, McLuhan, and Sri Aurobindo

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reading Savitri is itself practice of yoga and aspiration

posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:04 AM 39 comments Wednesday, August 30, 2006
There are times that I think to myself that this blog has come to the end of the line, and that there’s nothing left to say but “any questions?” After all, even the Bible, the Upanishads, and the Tao Te Ching don’t go on forever. Especially in the case of the latter two, they made their points in an extremely compact and pithy way, and then got out of the way. The fact that they are “closed” gives them all the more authority, for it forces one to look more deeply within the text (and the Self) than to keep looking beyond it.
So, what have I left out? Does anyone have any questions or ideas for future topics, or have we pretty much covered the weirderfront?
Tusar N Mohapatra said... Why not take up Savitri, Canto by Canto? 4:43 AM

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I often just open a page at random and read a few lines

What's Supramental, 24,000 Lines Long, and a Bit Purple?
Wednesday, September 06, 2006 posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:15 AM5 comments One Cosmos Under God by Robert W. Godwin
When I mentioned last week that I was suffering from brain fatigue and running low on ideas, occasional commenter Tusar suggested that I conduct a line by line analysis of Savitri. Right. Even doing ten lines a day would require some seven years. That’s why I need to have it on the desert island, so I finally have the time to finish it...
I noticed that one reviewer on amazon mentioned that there are parts of Savitri that will strike modern ears as rather overly ornate and “purple.” True, but this is an artifact of Aurobindo’s education at Cambridge in the late 19th century, when that was the poetical fashion of the day. But at the same time, you can open the book to most any page and find passages of stunning spiritual resonance, at least if you are open to the effect.
As a matter of fact, in my poetic little metamythall in the opening section of One Cosmos (page 7), I was trying in my own inscrutable way to evoke the following opening lines of Savitri, which similarly attempt to describe the unknowable state of affairs prior to time, space, or even God (for God only knows himself through creation): It was the hour before the Gods awake...The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone In her unlit temple of eternity...The abysm of the unbodied Infinite; A fathomless zero occupied the world....Between the first and the last Nothingness...As in a dark beginning of all things, A mute featureless semblance of the Unknown Repeating for ever the unconscious act, Prolonging for ever the unseeing will...
Then there is the primordial act of creation, which, of course, is always happening vertically in the primordial now, mirroring the fiat lux of Genesis: Then something in the inscrutable darkness stirred...A thought was sewn in the unsounded Void, A sense was born within the darkness’ depths....A message from the unknown immortal Light Ablaze upon creation’s quivering edge, Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues And buried its seed of grandeur in the hours.
Again, I tried to capture the same thing, after the big Bang! of creation on page 12 of One Cosmos, when A wondrous thunder rends it all asunder. The molten infinite pours forth a blazen torrent of incandescent finitude, As light plunges an undying fire into its own shadow...
In fact, in my little psychotic firey tale, you might say that I attempted to combine quantum cosomolgy, Genesis, Savitri, and Finnegans Wake, which is another of my desert island books we will be discussing, perhaps in the next installment.
I can’t necessarily say that I would “recommend” Savitri, any more than I would recommend Finnegans Wake to the unsuspecting reader. Savitri is not a normal poem, any more than Finnegans Wake is a normal book. Both are entirely sui generis, more aptly described as unique “phenomena” than members of any other class besides themselves. I often “consult” each of them, but I have never read either from cover to cover. And at the moment I am pressed for time, so I can hardly begin to do justice to the depths of Savitri.
I often just open a page at random and read a few lines before meditating. I shall do so now. Hmm. Very apropos of our Dark Age: As from a womb obscure he saw emerge The body and visage of a dark Unseen....A peril haunted now the common air; The world grew full of menacing Energies....Appalling footsteps drew visibly near, Shapes that were threats invaded the dream-light, And ominous beings passed him on the road Whose very gaze was calamity....
Which reminds me. For those people who constantly chide me for mixing politics and spirituality--it’s all about the Menacing Energies, the Ominous Beings, and those Appalling Footsteps. Speaking allahgorycally, of course.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A dreamworld, an aural sphere of kinetic and gestural

by Rich on Wed 23 Aug 2006 04:22 PM PDT Permanent Link Excellent article by Donald Theall who was Marshall McLuhan's first doctoral student on James Joyce pre-vision of cyber space DONALD F. THEALLBEYOND THE ORALITY/LITERACY DICHOTOMY: JAMES JOYCE AND THE PRE-HISTORY OF CYBERSPACE
The Gutenberg Galaxy, a book which redirected the way that artists, critics, scholars and communicators viewed the role of technological mediation in communication and expression, had its origin in Marshall McLuhan's desire to write a book called "The Road to _Finnegans Wake_." It has not been widely recognized just how important James Joyce's major writings were to McLuhan, or to other major figures (such as Jorge Luis Borges, John Cage, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, and Jacques Lacan) who have written about aspects of communication involving technological mediation, speech, writing, and electronics...
_Finnegans Wake_ is one of the first major poetic encounters with the challenge that electronic media present to the traditionally accepted relationships between speech, script and print. (_Ulysses_ also involves such an encounter, but at an earlier stage in the historic development of mediated communication.) Imagine Joyce around 1930 asking the question: what is the role of the book in a culture which has discovered photography, phonography, radio, film, television, telegraph, cable, and telephone and has developed newspapers, magazines, advertising, Hollywood, and sales promotion? What people once read, they will now go to see in film and on television; everyday life will appear in greater detail and more up-to-date fashion in the press, on radio and in television; oral poetry will be reanimated by the potentialities of sound recording.^10^
The "counter-poetic," _Finnegans Wake_, provides one of *the* key texts regarding the problem presented by the dichotomization of the oral and the written and by its frequent corollary, a privileging of either speech or language. This enigmatic work is not only a polysemic, encyclopedic book designed to be read with the simultaneous involvement of ear and eye: it is also a self-reflexive book about the role of the book in the electro-machinic world of the new technology.^11^ The _Wake_ is the most comprehensive exploration, prior to the 1960s or 70s, of the ways in which these new modes created a dramatic crisis for the arts of language and the privileged position of the printed book. The _Wake_ dramatizes the necessary deconstruction and reconstruction of language in a world where multi-semic grammars and rhetorics, combined with entirely new modes for organizing and transmitting information and knowledge, eventually would impose a variety of new, highly specialized roles on speech, print and writing.
Joyce's selection of Vico's _New Science_^12^ as the structural scaffolding for the _Wake_--the equivalent of Homer's _Odyssey_ in _Ulysses_--underscores how his interest in the contemporary transformation of the book requires grounding the evolution of civilization in the poetics of communication, especially gesture and language and the "prophetic" role of the poetic in shaping the future. As the world awakens to the full potentialities for the construction of artifacts and processes of communication in the new electric cosmos, Joyce foresees the transformation (not the death) of the book--going beyond the book as it had historically evolved. Confronted with this situation, Joyce seeks to develop a poetic language which will resituate the book within this new communicative cosmos, while simultaneously recognizing the drive toward the development of a theoretically all-inclusive, all-encompassing medium, "virtual reality."
Since the action takes place in a dreamworld, Joyce can produce an impressively prophetic imaginary prototype for the virtual worlds of the future. His dreamworld envelops the reader within an aural sphere, accompanied by kinetic and gestural components that arise from effects of rhythm and intonation realized through the visual act of reading; but it also reproduces imaginarily the most complex multi-media forms and envisions how they will utilize his present, which will have become the past, to transform the future.^13^ The hero(ine)^14^ in the _Wake_, "Here Comes Everybody," is a communicating machine, "This harmonic condenser enginium (the Mole)" (310.1), an electric transmission-receiver system, an ear, the human sensorium, a presence "eclectrically filtered for all irish earths and ohmes." Joyce envisions the person as embodied within an electro-machinopolis (an electric, pan-global, machinic environment), which becomes an extension of the human body, an interior presence, indicated by a stress on the playfulness of the whole person and on tactility as calling attention to the interplay of sensory information within the electro-chemical neurological system.
This medley of elements and concerns, focussed on questioning the place of oral and written language in an electro-mechanical technoculture that engenders more and more comprehensive modes of communication biased towards the dramatic, marks Joyce as a key figure in the pre-history of virtual reality. Acutely sensitive to the inseparable involvement of speech, script, and print with the visual, the auditory, the kinesthetic and other modes of expression, Joyce roots all communication in gesture...

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