Friday, October 28, 2011

TC Murr adds

Anyway. The Growing Anxiety chapter is very important for the theme of humanism: we see three versions of it: the revolutionary, outward-directed humanism in the grandfather, the studious, inward-directed humanism of the father, the pedagogue in the figure of S himself. The chapter ends with this: 'What a piece of work is a man', which is of course a reference to two of the most luminous texts of humanism: 

Hamlet's Act 2 Scene 2 speech: 
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? 


and this, from Sophocles's Antigone:

Numberless are the world's wonders, but none
More wonderful than man; the storm gray sea
Yields to his prows, the huge crests bear him high;
Earth, holy and inexhaustible, is graven
With shining furrows where his plows have gone
Year after year, the timeless labor of stallions.

The light-boned birds and beasts that cling to cover,
The lithe fish lighting their reaches of dim water,
All are taken, tamed in the net of his mind;
The lion on the hill, the wild horse windy-maned,
Resign to him; and his blunt yoke has broken
The sultry shoulders of the mountain bull.

Words also, and thought as rapid as air,
He fashions to his good use; statecraft is his
And his the skill that deflects the arrows of snow,
The spears of winter rain: from every wind
He has made himself secure--from all but one:
In the late wind of death he cannot stand.

O clear intelligence, force beyond all measure!
O fate of man, working both good and evil!
When the laws are kept, how proudly his city stands!
When the laws are broken, what of his city then?
Never may the anarchic man find rest at my hearth,
Never be it said that my thoughts are his thoughts.


There are constant references to this latter speech in S's remarks throughout this chapter.

some thoughts on Spengler from earlier. It' is unfortunate that the term 'Asiatic' used by Spengler has connotations of Orientalism, and colonialism, because I think it's not very inaccurate. One of the differences between Western humanism and Asian thought systems, such as Doaism, Confucianism and Buddhism is in the attitude towards transcendednce. Western humanism is driven towards transcendence, as we see in the figures of the three Settimbrini's, and in the Sophocles speech. Nature is there to be controlled, to be exploited (in the good sense of this word), man is master of his destiny. Eastern systems, however, emphasise the oneness of man with nature and hold up the ideal of non inteference with nature's flow. Eastern cultures often seem extremely passive, or at least breed what looks like passivity to our Western eyes. I'm thinking here of the Daoist Wu Wei idea, 'do nothing'.

At the end of this chapter, HC chooses Asiaticism (?) represented by the Kirghiz eyes, the beyond-the-Caucus Russianness of Clavdia, over Europeanism, the moon over the sun, the mist over clear light. Hans cannot stop his mind being drawn to the opposite of what S has just told him. This is a wonderful chapter.

At the risk of boring everyone, I also must say I loved the analytic chapter too. The conflation of Freud/psychoanalysis with Jesus/Christianity, and then both culminating in an 'advertisement for dissection' was a wicked joke on Mann's part.

Mac, I'm going to take up your challenge and put some thoughts together on music.

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