Gerard Manley Hopkins’s Sermons, John Crowe Ransom’s Collected Poems, and a Prize-Winning Flannery O’Connor Documentary
Good morning, everyone. Well, this is good news: John Crowe Ransom finally gets not one but two variorum editions of his work: “Many readers will wonder whether Ransom is a poet worth troubling over, these decades after his death, the great movement in American poetry and literary criticism he helped to incite having been, by and large, routed in the academy and in the broader culture. The answer is, yes, indeed.”
Also good news, I think: Flannery O’Connor documentary receives $200,000 grant: “A new film about the life and writings of Flannery O’Connor will receive the first Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. The award was announced on Wednesday by the Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation.”
Jim Antle reviews Rand Paul’s The Case Against Socialism: “Much of Paul’s book is devoted to pointing out that when socialism is taken to its most radical conclusions, it degenerates into starvation and death camps, not playing cute AOC videos on your iPhone or wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt on your college campus.”
2018 saw a big jump in the number of self-published books according to Bowker’s annual survey: “In its report, ‘Self-Publishing in the United States, 2013-2018: Print and E-books,’ the total number of print and e-books that were self-published in 2018 was 1.68 million, up from 1.19 million in 2017. Bowker measures the size of the market based on the number ISBN’s registered and thus does not include self-published e-books by Amazon’s Kindle division, which uses an Amazon identifier.”
Why red means red in almost every language: “When Paul Kay, then an anthropology graduate student at Harvard University, arrived in Tahiti in 1959 to study island life, he expected to have a hard time learning the local words for colors. His field had long espoused a theory called linguistic relativity, which held that language shapes perception. Color was the ‘parade example,’ Kay says. His professors and textbooks taught that people could only recognize a color as categorically distinct from others if they had a word for it. If you knew only three color words, a rainbow would have only three stripes. Blue wouldn’t stand out as blue if you couldn’t name it. What’s more, according to the relativist view, color categories were arbitrary. The spectrum of color has no intrinsic organization. Scientists had no reason to suspect that cultures divvied it up in similar ways. To an English speaker like Kay, the category ‘red’ might include shades ranging from deep wine to light ruby. But to Tahitians, maybe ‘red’ also included shades that Kay would call ‘orange’ or ‘purple.’ Or maybe Tahitians chunked colors not by a combination of hue, lightness and saturation, as Americans do, but by material qualities, like texture or sheen. To his surprise, however, Kay found it easy to understand colors in Tahitian. The language had fewer color terms than English. For example, only one word, ninamu, translated to both green and blue (now known as grue). But most Tahitian colors mapped astonishingly well to categories that Kay already knew intuitively, including white, black, red, and yellow. It was strange, he thought, that the groupings weren’t more random.”
Banksy opens online store, and it is predictably sardonic in that belabored way that characterizes most of Banksy’s work. The poor man is two cents shy of a good sense of humor and doesn’t know it.
A Cambridge gallery has loaned art to students for 60 years and none of it has ever been returned damaged.
Essay of the Day:
In The Los Angeles Review of Books, Brett Beasley takes stock of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s sermons:
“‘Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!’ wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins in a now-famous sonnet called ‘The Starlight Night.’ It was not just any sky, but the sky over Wales in the spring of 1877 that inspired him to see the constellations as ‘quickgold,’ ‘whitebeam,’ and ‘flake-doves.’ Hopkins, awaiting his ordination as a Jesuit priest, was living and studying at St. Beuno’s, a small theological college set into the side of a hill called Maenefa. As he described it in one poem, he was ‘[a]way in the loveable west, / On a pastoral forehead of Wales.’ It was here at St. Beuno’s, a few days after writing ‘The Starlight Night,’ that Hopkins delivered his earliest extant sermon.
“If the setting for the sermon was a friendly one, so was the audience. The attendees were Hopkins’s Jesuit brothers, the aim of the sermon being to gain him practice before his first assignment as a parish priest. The stakes, in other words, were low.
“Hopkins, however, was not one for halfhearted pursuits. He had no intention of taking it easy on himself. He opened with a grand metaphor, one designed to make his hearers reflect on the act of hearing. ‘Lend me your ears,’ he said, and then presented an image of the Sea of Galilee as ‘a man’s left ear.’ The River Jordan, he began, ‘enters at the top of the upper rim [and] runs out at the end of the lobe.’ The city of Bethsaida Julias rests, he said, ‘above the ear in the hair.’ He described the Apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip as coming from ‘against the cheek where the bow of the ear ends.’ The city of Tiberias he situated ‘on the tongue of flesh that stands out from the cheek.’
“And on he goes. And on. And on. As though the image were not complex enough, he fancifully transposed the ear/map composite onto the Welsh landscape surrounding St. Beuno’s. He connected Holy Land locations with Welsh places like Rhuddlan and Llannefydd, and finally he made the spot where his listeners sat on the slope of Maenefa, the very site where the biblical story they were about to hear took place.
“A metaphor bringing together the Holy Land, Wales, and an ear is a surprising feat of the imagination — and a playful one, too. But there is no reason to think Hopkins did not also mean for it to inspire. Surprise, in fact, is integral to his strategy. He wants to collapse time and space, to thrust his reader into the scene, making the Gospel story a vivid, felt reality. This much is certain: Hopkins missed his mark. Hearing their left ears compared to the Sea of Galilee, his listeners did not sit in silent amazement. They guffawed. And as Hopkins disentangled himself from his baroque opening metaphor, he encountered fresh difficulties.”
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