One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Monday, March 31, 2014

Nabokov re the Mysteries of Life and Writing

These quotes are from Strong Opinions.  From an interview with Alvin Toffler (think I met/saw him once long long ago) which appeared in Playboy (January, 1964).

***

You have also written that poetry represents "the mysteries of the irrational perceived through rational words." But many feel that the "irrational" has little place in an age when the exact knowledge of science has begun to plumb the most profound mysteries of existence. Do you agree?

     This appearance is very deceptive. It is a journalistic illusion. In point of fact, the greater one's science, the deeper the sense of mystery. Moreover, I don't believe that any science today has perceived any mystery. We, as newspaper readers, are inclined to call "science" the cleverness of an electrician or a psychiatrist's mumbo jumbo. This, at best, is applied science, and one of the characteristics of applied science is that yesterday's neutron or today's truth dies tomorrow. But even in a better sense of "science" -- as the study of visible and palpable nature, or the poetry of pure mathematics and pure philosophy -- the situation remains as hopeless as ever. We shall never know the origin of life, or the meaning of life, or the nature of space and time, or the nature of nature, or the nature of thought.

Man's understanding of these mysteries is embodied in his concept of a Divine Being. As a final question, do you believe in God?

     To be quite candid -- and what I am going to say now is something I never said before, and I hope it provokes a salutary little chill -- I know more than I can express in words, and the little I can express would not have been expressed, had I not known more.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wedekind's Lulu Plays

Pandora's Box (1904) (Die Büchse der Pandora) is a play by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind. It forms the second part of his pairing of 'Lulu' plays, the first being Earth Spirit (1895), both of which depict a society "riven by the demands of lust and greed".[1]

G. W. Pabst directed a silent film version Pandora's Box (1929), which was loosely based on the play. Both plays together also formed the basis for the opera Lulu by Alban Berg in 1935 (premiered posthumously in 1937).

In the original manuscript, dating from 1894, the 'Lulu' drama was in five acts and subtitled 'A Monster Tragedy'. Wedekind subsequently divided the work into two plays: Earth Spirit (German: Erdgeist, first printed in 1895) and Pandora's Box (German: Die Büchse der Pandora). It is now customary in theatre performances to run the two plays together, in abridged form, under the title Lulu. Wedekind is known to have taken his inspiration from at least two sources: the pantomime Lulu by Félicien Champsaur, which he saw in Paris in the early 1890s, and the sex murders of Jack the Ripper in London in 1888.[2]

The premiere of Pandora's Box, a restricted performance due to difficulties with the censor, took place in Nuremberg on 1 February 1904. The 1905 Viennese premiere, again restricted, was instigated by the satirist Karl Kraus. In Vienna Lulu was played by Tilly Newes, later to become Wedekind's wife, with the part of Jack the Ripper played by Wedekind himself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Frank Wedekind (1864 - 1918)

There's word golf and author golf. I got to Wedekind via Buchner.


*

Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (July 24, 1864 – March 9, 1918), usually known as Frank Wedekind, was a German playwright. His work, which often criticizes bourgeois attitudes (particularly towards sex), is considered to anticipate expressionism, and he was a major influence on the development of epic theatre.


Works

Wedekind's first major play, Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening, 1891), which concerns sexuality and puberty among some young German students, caused a scandal, as it contained scenes of homoeroticism, implied group male masturbation, actual male masturbation, sado-masochism between a teenage boy and girl, rape, and suicide, as well as references to abortion. In 2006, it was adapted into a successful Broadway musical, Spring Awakening.

The "Lulu" plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904) are probably his best known works. Originally conceived as a single play, the two pieces tell a continuous story of a sexually-enticing young dancer who rises in German society through her relationships with wealthy men, but who later falls into poverty and prostitution.[7] The frank depiction of sexuality and violence in these plays, including lesbianism and an encounter with Jack the Ripper (a role which Wedekind played himself in the original production),[8] pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on the stage at the time. Karl Kraus helped Wedekind to also stage in Vienna.[9]

The "Lulu" plays formed the basis for G W Pabst's acclaimed silent film Pandora's Box (1929), starring Louise Brooks as Lulu, and Alban Berg's incomplete opera Lulu (1937), which is considered to be one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century opera. (Berg's opera Lulu was ultimately completed by composer Friedrich Cerha, based on Berg's nearly completed manuscripts released long after the composer's 1935 death. A full three act version was first performed in Paris in 1979 under the musical direction of Pierre Boulez).[10] Currently the plays are being adapted into comics by John Linton Roberson.[11] They also form the basis for the 2011 album Lulu, a collaboration between the rock musician Lou Reed and the heavy metal band Metallica.[12]

Der Kammersänger (The Court-Singer, 1899) is a one-act character study of a famous opera singer who receives a series of unwelcome guests at his hotel suite. An opera in English, under the title "The Tenor" was written by composer Hugo Weisgall. In Franziska (1910), the title character, a young girl, initiates a Faustian pact with the Devil, selling her soul for the knowledge of what it is like to live life as a man (reasoning that men seem to have all the advantages). Wedekind's symbolist novella Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls (1903) was the basis for the film Innocence (2004) by Lucile Hadžihalilović and The Fine Art of Love (2005) by John Irvin.

A number of Wedekind's works were translated into English by Samuel Atkins Eliot, Jr.


[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Wedekind]

Sunday, March 23, 2014

From Buchner's "Lenz"


Lenz shuddered when he touched her cold limbs and saw her half-open glassy eyes. The child seemed to him so forlorn, and he himself so alone and isolated; he threw himself on top of the corpse; death frightened him, he was seized by an agony of pain, these features, this quiet face were going to rot away, he threw himself to his knees and with all the plangent ardour of despair he prayed that God might give him, weak and wretched creature that he was, a sign, and bring the child back to life; whereupon he huddled down in total concentration, focusing all his will-power on a single point, and thus he remained for a long time, quite rigid. Then he stood and, grasping the hands of the child, said loudly and firmly: 'Arise, and walk!' But the words echoed back from the sober walls as though in mockery, and the corpse stayed cold. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sturm und Drang

Sturm und Drang (German pronunciation: [ˈʃtʊʁm ʊnt ˈdʁaŋ], literally "Storm and Drive", "Storm and Urge", though conventionally translated as "Storm and Stress")[1] is a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s to the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements. The period is named for Friedrich Maximilian Klinger's play Sturm und Drang, which was first performed by Abel Seyler's famed theatrical company in 1777.

The philosopher Johann Georg Hamann is considered to be the ideologue of Sturm und Drang, with Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, H. L. Wagner and Friedrich Maximilian Klinger also significant figures. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was also a notable proponent of the movement, though he and Friedrich Schiller ended their period of association with it by initiating what would become Weimar Classicism.

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturm_und_Drang]

Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz (1751 - 1792)

Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz (23 January 1751, or 12 January in the Julian calendar–4 June 1792, or 24 May in the Julian calendar) was a Baltic German writer of the Sturm und Drang movement.


Life

Lenz was born in Sesswegen (Cesvaine), now Latvia, the son of the pietistic minister Christian David Lenz (1720–1798), later General Superintendent of Livonia. When Lenz was 9, in 1760, the family moved to Dorpat (Tartu), where his father had been offered a minister's post. His first published poem appeared when he was 15. From 1768 to 1770 he studied theology on a scholarship, first at Dorpat and then at Königsberg. While there, he attended lectures by Immanuel Kant, who encouraged him to read Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He began increasingly to follow his literary interests and to neglect theology. His first independent publication, the long poem Die Landplagen ("Torments of the Land") appeared in 1769. He also studied music, most likely with either the Ukrainian virtuoso lutanist Timofey Belogradsky, then resident in Königsberg, or his student Johann Friedrich Reichardt.

In 1771 Lenz abandoned his studies in Königsberg. Much against the will of his father, who on that account broke off contact with him, he took a position little better than that of a servant with Friedrich Georg and Ernst Nikolaus von Kleist ([1]), barons from Courland and officer cadets about to begin their military service, whom he accompanied to Strasbourg. Once there, he came into contact with the actuary Johann Daniel Salzmann, around whom had formed the literary group of the Société de philosophie et de belles lettres. This was frequented also by the young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who at this time happened to be in Strasbourg, and whose acquaintance Lenz made, as well as that of Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling. Goethe now became Lenz's literary idol, and through him he made contact with Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Kaspar Lavater, with whom he corresponded.

In the following year, 1772, Lenz accompanied his masters to the garrisons of Landau, Fort Louis and Wissembourg. He also fell in love with Friederike Brion, once the beloved of Goethe, but his feelings were not reciprocated.

In 1773 Lenz returned to Strasbourg and resumed his studies. The following year he gave up his position with the von Kleist brothers and lived as a freelance writer, earning his living by private tutoring. His relations with Goethe became friendlier: while the two of them were visiting Emmendingen, Goethe introduced Lenz to his sister Cornelia and her husband Johann Georg Schlosser.

In April 1776 Lenz followed Goethe to the court of Weimar, where he was at first amicably received. But in early December, on Goethe's instigation, he was expelled. The exact circumstances are not recorded; Goethe, who broke off all personal contact with him after this, refers only vaguely in his diary to "Lenz's asininity" ("Lenzens Eseley").

Lenz then returned to Emmendingen, where the Schlossers took him in. From there he made a number of journeys into Alsace and Switzerland, including one to Lavater in Zürich in May 1777. The news of Cornelia Schlosser's death, which reached him there in June of that year, had a powerful effect on him. He returned to Emmendingen, and then went back to Lavater. In November, while staying in Winterthur with Christoph Kaufmann, he suffered an attack of paranoid schizophrenia. In January 1778 Kaufmann sent Lenz to the philanthropist, social reformer and clergyman Johann Friedrich Oberlin in Waldersbach in Alsace, where he stayed from 20 January to 8 February. Despite the care of Oberlin and his wife, Lenz's mental condition grew worse. He returned to Schlosser at Emmendingen, where he was lodged with a shoemaker and then a forester.

His younger brother Karl fetched him in June 1779 from Hertingen, where he was under treatment by a doctor, and brought him to Riga, where their father by this time had risen to the position of General Superintendent.

Lenz was unable to establish himself professionally in Riga. An attempt to make him director of the cathedral school came to nothing, as Herder refused to give him a reference. Nor did he have any greater success in St. Petersburg, where he lived from February to September 1780. He then took a position as a private tutor on an estate near Dorpat, then, after another stay in St. Petersburg, he went to Moscow in September 1781, where initially he stayed with the historian Friedrich Müller and learned Russian.

He worked as a private tutor, mixed in the circles of Russian Freemasons and authors, and helped produce a number of reformist schemes. He also translated books on Russian history into German. His mental condition however was steadily deteriorating all the while, and at last he became entirely dependent on the goodwill of Russian patrons for the means of living.

In the early morning of 4 June 1792 (24 May in the Julian calendar) Lenz was found dead in a Moscow street. The place of his burial is unknown.

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakob_Michael_Reinhold_Lenz]

From Buchner's "Lenz"


     In the tiny churchyard the snow was gone, dark moss amongst the black crosses, a cluster of late roses leaning against the churchyard wall, late flowers, too, peering from the moss, sometimes sunlight, then shadow again. The service began, the voices of the people merged in bright pure harmony; it was like gazing into pure clear water from a mountain spring. The sounds of the singing died away, Lenz began to speak, he was shy, thanks to the music his numbness was gone, all his pain awoke and filled his heart. A sweet sensation of endless well-being crept over him. He spoke simply to the people, all shared his suffering, and it was a comfort to him if he could bring sleep to weeping tired eyes and peace to tortured hearts, if in the face of this existence racked by material needs he could guide this silent suffering towards heaven. He had found more strength by the time he finished, then the voices began to sing again:
Let in me the sacred passion
Open all the deepest wells;
Suffering be my sole reward,
Suffering be my praise to God.

And Rorty Came Bubbling Up

An old friend brought up Nietzsche, the silver fox of a philosopher (or man-on-the-street) mumbled something about Chomsky, and something at work this week made me think of Richard Rorty.

What do I understand about philosophy? Next to nothing. And yet I sometimes dabble, choosing this person or that primarily on the way that he/she shuffles words.

Anyway, I dug up the Rorty text that I was thinking of and will jot down just a couple of passages I highlighted long long ago.

*

From Rorty's introduction to Essays on Heidegger and Others:
Consider sentences as strings of marks and noises emitted by organisms, strings capable of being paired off with the strings we ourselves utter (in the way we call "translating"). Consider beliefs, desires, and intentions -- sentential attitudes generally -- as entities posited to help predict the behavior of these organisms. Now think of those organisms as gradually evolving as a result of producing longer and more complicated strings, strings which enable them to do things they had been unable to do with the aid of shorter and simpler strings. Now think of us as examples of such highly evolved organisms, of our highest hopes and deepest fears as made possible by, among other things, our ability to produce the peculiar strings we do. Then think of the four sentences that precede this one as further examples of such strings. Penultimately, think of the five sentences that precede this one as a sketch for a redesigned house of Being, a new dwelling for us shepherds of Being. Finally, think of the last six sentences as yet another example of the play of signifiers, one more example of the way in which meaning is endlessly alterable through the recontextualization of signs.


And from "Is Derrida a Transcendental Philosopher?":
     Nominalists see language as just human beings using marks and noises to get what they want. One of the things we want to do with language is to get food, another is to get sex, another is to understand the origin of the universe. Another is to enhance our sense of human solidarity, and still another may be to create oneself by developing one's own private, autonomous, philosophical language.  

My Black Phoebe

Finally decided to sit still for me, down at the Colorado Lagoon.




Monday, March 17, 2014

Plaque to Brian O'Nolan/Myles Na Gopaleen/Flann O'Brien in Strabane

St. Patty's, Flann O'Brien, De Selby

Had the boiled Irish meal over the weekend, so tonight it's pizza and Smithwick's (instead of Guinness).

I also want to throw de Selby into the mix: he deserves a footnote.

*

De Selby is a fictional character originally invented by Flann O'Brien for his novel The Third Policeman. In this novel the character is known as "de Selby", with the latter capital D appearing in use in O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive. De Selby does not actually appear in the plot of the novel, but only in references and frequent footnotes, where his unorthodox theories and areas of research are, however tenuously, linked to the plot.[1] De Selby is heavily referenced in footnotes in this book, the longest of which takes up the bottom halves of eight pages and ends on a completely different note from the one on which it began.

De Selby has a host of critical analyzers – the narrator among them – many of whom have highly conflicting opinions of his esoteric thoughts. Although generally held in high regard by these people (many of whom hate each other), he is thought by many to have had regrettable lapses and is even called, by implication, a "nincompoop".

De Selby also appears in O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive, in which he develops a substance ("D.M.P.") capable of extracting all oxygen from an airtight enclosure, of disrupting the sequentiality of time, and of producing fine mature whiskey in a week.[2] De Selby vows to use the substance to destroy the world in the name of God.[2]

American author Robert Anton Wilson used de Selby in footnotes in his novel The Widow's Son and in his short story "The Horror on Howth Hill". Wilson's de Selby is an expanded version of O'Brien's, and was involved in an unrequited romance with one of Gertrude Stein's lovers, a bitter academic feud spanning decades, and possibly intrigues involving the CIA. Also, Wilson replaces the concept of black air with that of teratological molecules, which are said to cause stunting of growth and are banished by electric light.

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Selby]

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What the Heavyweights Say about Buchner...

From the Intro by John Reddick:

No other writer is more enthusiastically hailed by his present-day successors: Heinrich Boll has spoken of his 'remarkable relevance', Gunter Grass of his 'incendiary' force; for Christa Wolf, 'German prose begins with Buchner's Lenz' -- which constitutes her 'absolute ideal', her 'primal experience' in German literature; Wolf Biermann has gone so far as to describe him simply as Germany's 'greatest writer'.

"Sweet-Arsed Venus"

Ran into her in Danton's Death.


 
[From Wikimedia Commons]
 
 
***
 
The Venus Callipyge, also known as the Aphrodite Kallipygos (Greek: Ἀφροδίτη Καλλίπυγος) or the Callipygian Venus, all literally meaning "Venus (or Aphrodite) of the beautiful buttocks",[2] is an Ancient Roman marble statue, thought to be a copy of an older Greek original. In an example of anasyrma, it depicts a partially draped woman, raising her light peplos to uncover her hips and buttocks, and looking back and down over her shoulder, perhaps to evaluate them. The subject is conventionally identified as Venus (Aphrodite), though it may equally be a portrait of a mortal woman.

The marble statue extant today dates to the late 1st century BC.[3] The lost Greek original on which it is based is thought to have been bronze, and to have been executed around 300 BC, towards the beginning of the Hellenistic era.[3] The provenance of the marble copy is unknown, but it was rediscovered, missing its head, in the early modern era. The head was restored, first in the 16th century and again in the 18th century (in which case the sculptor followed the earlier restoration fairly closely); the restored head was made to look over the shoulder, drawing further attention to the statue's bare buttocks and thereby contributing to its popularity.[4] In the 17th and 18th centuries the statue was identified as Venus and associated with a temple to Aphrodite Kallipygos at Syracuse, discussed by Athenaeus in his Deipnosophists. The statue was copied a number of times, including by Jean-Jacques Clérion and François Barois.


[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_Callipyge]



I'VE BOUGHT TOO MUCH, THEREFORE I DIE . Death of Marat in shopping cityof Voitsberg/Styria

Once classic, you're bound to be reinterpreted, commercialized, abused. It's tough at the top.

29. Jacques Louis David, The Death of Marat (1793) Royal Museums ofFine Arts, Brussels)

Danton is chockfull of revolutionary dudes. The footnotes are very helpful in sorting out the details, and also a good read "unto themselves."

Georg Buchner (1813 - 1837)

Casting around for something new to read, I hit on Buchner. His works (very few in number) were on Kindle, so I thought: Why not reread Georg. OK, so I had to shell out a little cash (freebies were only in German). I remembered liking him very much in paper.

Currently reading his play, Danton's Death.

***

Karl Georg Büchner (17 October 1813 – 19 February 1837) was a German dramatist and writer of poetry and prose. He was also a revolutionary, a natural scientist, and the brother of physician and philosopher Ludwig Büchner. His literary achievements, though few in number, are generally held in great esteem in Germany and it is widely believed that, had it not been for his early death, he might have joined such central German literary figures as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller at the summit of their profession.


Life and career

Born in Goddelau (now part of Riedstadt) in the Grand Duchy of Hesse as the son of a physician, Büchner attended a humanistic secondary school that focused on modern languages (including French, Italian and English).

In 1828, he became interested in politics and joined a circle of William Shakespeare aficionados which later on probably became the Gießen and Darmstadt section of the "Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte" (Society for Human Rights).

In 1831, at age 18, he began to study medicine in Strasbourg. In Strasbourg, he immersed himself in French literature and political thought. He was influenced by the utopian communist theories of François-Noël Babeuf and Claude Henri de Saint-Simon. In 1833 he moved to Gießen and continued his studies at the University of Giessen.

While Büchner continued his studies in Gießen, he established a secret society dedicated to the revolutionary cause. In July 1834, with the help of evangelical theologian Friedrich Ludwig Weidig, he published the leaflet Der Hessische Landbote, a revolutionary pamphlet critical of social injustice in the Grand Duchy of Hesse. The authorities charged them with treason and issued a warrant for their arrest. Weidig was arrested, tortured and later died in prison in Darmstadt; Büchner managed to flee across the border to Strasbourg where he wrote most of his literary work and translated two French plays by Victor Hugo, Lucrèce Borgia and Marie Tudor. Two years later, his medical dissertation, "Mémoire sur le Système Nerveux du Barbeaux (Cyprinus barbus L.)" was published in Paris and Strasbourg. In October 1836, after receiving his M.D. and being appointed by the University of Zurich as a lecturer in anatomy, Büchner relocated to Zurich where he spent his final months writing and teaching until his death from typhus at the age of twenty-three.
 
His first play, Dantons Tod (Danton's Death), about the French revolution, was published in 1835, followed by Lenz (first partly published in Karl Gutzkow's and Wienberg's Deutsche Revue, which was quickly banned). Lenz is a novella based on the life of the Sturm und Drang poet Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz. In 1836 his second play, Leonce and Lena, satirized the nobility. His unfinished and most famous play, Woyzeck, was notable because its main characters were all from the working class. It exists only in fragments and was published posthumously.

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_B%C3%BCchner]

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wrong Way Home (3/13/14)


We always make choices. I took the wrong way home yesterday. Traffic: stop-and-go all the way to Long Beach. I took a few pictures.

*

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 



Impressionism -- Skyscrapers





Wednesday, March 12, 2014

From Strindberg's "To Damascus"


STRANGER. So you're here?

TEMPTER. I'm always everywhere, where it smells of quarrels. And in love affairs there are always quarrels.

STRANGER. Always?

TEMPTER. Always! I was invited to a silver wedding yesterday. Twenty-five years are no trifle -- and for twenty-five years they'd been quarrelling. The whole love affair had been one long shindy, with many little ones in between! And yet they loved one another, and were grateful for all the good that had come to them; the evil was forgotten, wiped out -- for a moment's happiness is worth ten days of blows and pinpricks. Oh yes! Those who won't accept evil never get anything good. The rind's very bitter, though the kernel's sweet.

STRANGER. But very small.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Günter Grass e Christa Wolf

I posted a photo earlier (sometime last year) of Christa Wolf, but it apparently was blocked or taken off Flickr. Here's another one (Christa is on the right) with Gunter Grass (I don't think I've ever posted a photo of him). Two birds one stone.

Peeting vs. Peeting

According to Urban Dictionary, Anthony Burgess gets first coinage: in Nadsat peeting means "drinking."

Dim, Georgie, and I were peeting the old moloko at the Korova Milkbar.

*

I'm not planting my flag anywhere, but certainly I've given it the meaning: "going to Peets," "stopping in at Peets," "breakfasting at Peets," etc.

I'll be peeting tomorrow around 5:30.



The Colorado Lagoon (3/9/14)


Even the flowers think it's spring.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 



Jason Herron

Was recently contacted (at a near-dead e-mail I rarely check) by a Joseph Morsman re the art and identity of Jason Herron, the female artist with a man's name whom I uncovered last school year at Belmont High School: Her buff basketballer sits (or did at least while I was there) right at the front door of the school.

Anyway, without inserting the exact contents of his e-mail, I want to add what I found related to Joseph and his sounds-like-a-labor-of-love book, working title: Emerging from the Shadows: A Survey of Women Artists in California, 1860 - 1960. Hope it gets published! 

According to Joseph, the book will have 10 images of Jason (Jessie) Herron's work.

***

 


From Strindberg's "To Damascus"

This excerpt is from the third part of the trilogy:


CONFESSOR. I think you're entangling yourself in contradictions.

STRANGER. I think so, too! For the whole of life consists of nothing but contradictions. The rich are the poor in spirit; the many little men hold the power, and the great only serve the little men. I've never met such proud people as the humble; I've never met an uneducated man who didn't believe himself in a position to criticize learning and to do the unpleasantest of deadly sins amongst the Saints: I mean self-complacency. In my youth I was a saint myself; but I've never been so worthless as I was then. The better I thought myself, the worse I became.

CONFESSOR. Then what do you seek here?

STRANGER. What I've told you already; but I'll add this: I'm seeking death without the need to die!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Expressionism, Theater, Stations of the Cross, Station Dramas

Expressionist plays often dramatise the spiritual awakening and sufferings of their protagonists and are referred to as Stationendramen (station dramas), modeled on the episodic presentation of the suffering and death of Jesus in the Stations of the Cross. August Strindberg had pioneered this form with his autobiographical trilogy To Damascus (1898-1904).

The plays often dramatise the struggle against bourgeois values and established authority, often personified in the figure of the Father. In Reinhard Sorge's The Beggar (Der Bettler), the young hero's mentally ill father raves about the prospect of mining the riches of Mars and is eventually poisoned by his son. In Arnolt Bronnen's Parricide (Vatermord), the son stabs his tyrannical father to death, only to have to fend off the frenzied sexual overtures of his mother. In Expressionist drama, the speech is heightened, whether expansive and rhapsodic, or clipped and telegraphic. Director Leopold Jessner became famous for his Expressionistic productions, often unfolding on stark, steeply raked flights of stairs (an idea originally developed by Edward Gordon Craig), which quickly became his trademark.

In the 1920s, Expressionism enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the theatre of the United States, including plays by Eugene O'Neill (The Hairy Ape, The Emperor Jones and The Great God Brown), Sophie Treadwell (Machinal), Lajos Egri (Rapid Transit) and Elmer Rice (The Adding Machine).

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism_(theatre)]

Harriet Bosse (1878 - 1961)

Harriet Sofie Bosse (19 February 1878 – 2 November 1961) was a SwedishNorwegian actress. A celebrity in her own day, Bosse is today most commonly remembered as the third wife of August Strindberg, an influential playwright. Bosse began her career in a minor company run by her forceful older sister Alma Fahlstrøm in Kristiania (now Oslo, the capital of Norway). Having secured an engagement at the Royal Dramatic Theatre ("Dramaten"), the main drama venue of Sweden's capital Stockholm, Bosse caught the attention of Strindberg with her intelligent acting and exotic "oriental" appearance.

After a whirlwind courtship, which unfolds in detail in Strindberg's letters and diary, Strindberg and Bosse were married in 1901, when he was 51 and she 22. Strindberg wrote a number of major roles for Bosse during their short and stormy relationship, especially in 1900–01, a period of great creativity and productivity for him. Like his previous two marriages, the relationship failed as a result of Strindberg's jealousy, which some biographers have characterized as paranoid. The spectrum of Strindberg's feelings about Bosse, ranging from worship to rage, is reflected in the roles he wrote for her to play, or as portraits of her. Despite her real-life role as muse to Strindberg, she remained an independent artist.

Bosse married Swedish actor Anders Gunnar Wingard in 1908, and Swedish screen actor, director, and matinee idol Edvin Adolphson in 1927. All three of her marriages ended in divorce after a few years, leaving her with a daughter by Strindberg and a son by Wingård. On retiring after a high-profile acting career based in Stockholm, she returned to her roots in Oslo.

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Bosse]

Harriet Bosse in Strindberg's "To Damascus"



 
[Photo fro Wikimedia Commons]


To Damascus

To Damascus (Swedish: Till Damaskus), also known as The Road to Damascus, is a trilogy of plays by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg.[1] The first two parts were published in 1898, with the third following in 1904.[2] It has been described as "Strindberg's most complex play" and as "his greatest play," due to its "synthesis of a wide variety of myths, symbols and ideas with a profound spiritual analysis in a new dramatic form."[3]


Writing Process

Strindberg began writing Part 1 in January 1898 in France and by 8 March he had completed the manuscript.[4] This marked the first time that Strindberg had written drama in five years.[4] "If you find it good," he wrote to Gustaf af Geijerstam, "chuck it in at the theatre. If you find it impossible, hide it away."[4] At this time, he considered the first part to be complete in itself; he did not originally intend to follow it with two sequels.[4] He began writing Part 2 during the summer of 1898 in Lund and had completed it by the middle of July.[5] The first two parts were published in a single volume in October 1898.[6] Strindberg arranged for a copy to be sent to Henrik Ibsen, describing him as "the Master, from whom he learned much."[7] Strindberg began to write Part 3 in January 1901.[8] It was published in April 1904.[9]


Analysis and Criticism

The dramatic structure of the first part utilises a circular, palindromic form of the Medieval "station drama."[4][10] The protagonist, The Stranger, on his way to an asylum, passes through seven "stations;" having reached the asylum, he then returns to each in reverse order, before arriving at his starting-point on a street corner.[4] Peter Szondi describes this form as a type of subjective theatre in which the classical "unity of action" is replaced with a "unity of the self":
In the "station drama," the hero, whose development is described, is separated in the clearest possible manner from the other figures he meets at the stations along his way. They appear only in terms of his encounters with them and only from his perspective. They are, thus, references to him.[11]
This technique affects radically the way in which time operates in the drama, producing a static and episodic quality to the scenes.[12] It belongs to what came to be known as "I-dramaturgy."[13]

 

[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Damascus]

Bell-Making IV


 
 



Saturday, March 1, 2014

James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock..."

Thought about this poem this week: mostly the last line, which I love. Not a big fan of his work in general, but I've always liked this one. Don't even care what it means.

***

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in the green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Milena on Kafka

Finished with Kafka and Felice. He gets diagnosed with tuberculosis toward the end of the correspondence. Was sort of in between texts (still am but I think I'll return to Strindberg), so I read the appendices of the Letters to Milena (I've read the letters thrice but my new Kindle version included some extra goodies: some letters from Milena to Max Brod, some of Milena's articles/essays, and the obit she wrote for Kafka).

These bits are from letters Milena wrote to Max:

I really was very shocked; I didn't know that Franz's illness was so serious -- he was really quite healthy here, I didn't hear him cough at all, he was bright and cheerful and slept well.

He doesn't understand the simplest things in the world. Were you ever in a post office with him? After he composes a telegram and picks out whatever little counter he likes best, shaking his head, he then drifts from one counter to another, without the slightest idea to what end or why, until he finally stumbles on the right one, and when he pays and receives change, he counts it and discovers one krone too many, and so he gives one back to the girl behind the counter. Then he walks away slowly, counts once again, and in the middle of descending the last staircase he realizes that the missing krone belong to him after all. So there you stand next to him, at a loss, while he shifts his weight from one foot to the other, wondering what to do.

 A person who can type quickly and a man who has four mistresses are just as incomprehensible to him as the krone at the post office and the krone with the beggar; they are incomprehensible to him because they are alive. But Frank is unable to live. Frank isn't capable of living. Frank will never recover. Frank will soon die.

I was incapable of leaving my husband, and perhaps I was too much a woman to have the strength to subject myself to a life that I knew would demand the most rigorous asceticism, for the rest of my days. I have, however, an insuppressible longing, a maniacal longing for a completely different life than the one I am leading now or ever will lead, a longing for a life with a child, for a life that would be very close to the earth. And this is what probably won out over everything else inside me, over love, over my love of taking flight, over my admiration, and once again over love. 




Augenrund VIII