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Index: Psychology, Philosophy & Education

The six-way mirror.

Ed. Note — Robert Saxton’s ‘Six-Way Mirror’ is keyed from this page.

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What are perversions?

Anthony Howell: ‘The text is appropriately supplied with examples from films, and Benvenuto makes interesting points about our propensity to seek out and happily identify with the perverse vicariously via fiction – drama and film enabling a catharsis similar to a positive outcome from analysis, though it appears that analysis has no obligation to come to a conclusion: one can go on seeing one’s analyst as one might any confessor. The devil ensures that temptation is an ongoing affair.’

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Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Alan Wall: ‘Although many of the pieces published in these two impressive volumes would be known already to Wittgensteinians, many more would not. Unless you have not only bought anthologies like Rush Rees’s Recollections of Wittgenstein, but also followed such publications as Guy’s Hospital Reports and the Irish Medical Times, or Hermathena, then some of these essays will be new to you. Together they present a composite image of the man which is hugely impressive. Perhaps each century can produce one man like Wittgenstein; certainly not many more. ‘

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‘Do you know Brunetière?’

Erik Butler: ‘When Brunetière wrote that “battle looms,” he was not exaggerating. Two World Wars, if nothing else, should have proven as much; the struggles for national liberation that emerged when European empires collapsed have dotted the globe with expanding theaters of conflict. The economic and cultural imperialism of gung-ho American capitalism has begotten a market that can operate perfectly well without its creator. Fundamentalism has only flourished in response to “progress” (including, not too long ago, the “scientific socialism” espoused by the Soviet Union).’

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How we knew.

Harry Guest: ‘One of the reasons why I took early retirement ̶ with sadness, really, because I had very much enjoyed 37 years sharing what I had discovered with eager pupils (hordes of whom were far more intelligent than myself) ̶ was seeing a test paper for the replacement of O Level by GCSE. There was a photograph of a French square. The candidates had to find “where your father would get
petrol and where you would go for lunch” so that the examiner could see they knew the French for “Garage” as well as “Restaurant”.’

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Duties of care in the study of literature.

Alex Wong: ‘To be able to enter into an emotional and ideological world not one’s own, and then to be moved by it, to come to respect it, to empathize with that mode of thought and feeling—whether aesthetic, sentimental or moral—must be, I take it, one of the most important processes involved in the study of old books. It is especially important when the book in question at first seems particularly alien. What I am talking about (knowing that I am saying nothing new) might be described as an engaged, humane, historical awareness, the goal being an expansion of sensibility in which process those foreign things (the works of art) are assimilated.’

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The Magdeburg Sphere.

Marcel Cohen: ‘Can the way we see the world after the Catastrophe serve as testimony for a man of my generation? Can a form of absence of the author, an author cut-off from himself, serve as presence for the reader? These are further questions to which I have no answer. But I remember that when I was a special correspondent for a Parisian daily in Israel during the Six Day War, I was struck by this obvious fact: contrary to a church or a mosque, the Wailing Wall is not a place where you can take refuge and feel sheltered. You gaze upon it and then you must necessarily resolve to turn your back to it in order to look out at the world.’

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Montaigne’s ‘genial scepticism’.

Robert McHenry: ‘By actual guesswork I estimate that half of all reviews of volumes of essays take the time to discuss the etymology of the word “essay,” back through Middle French “essai” to the Latin exagium, landing always on the senses of “trial,” “test,” or “attempt.” They are not always clear about what it is that is being tried, tested, or attempted in any given essay. Even less clear is what they mean when they refer to any particular literary composition by that label.’

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Against Mysticism.

Oliver Elton: ‘We must cherish the hope that one day the bitter experience and illusory vision which are at the root of official mysticism may tend to die out, at any rate in the West. The process may be as long as the step from primitive idolatry, and meantime the regular mystics and their dispensaries must hold a regarded place. But science now forces us to think in long periods of time. ‘

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Picturing language.

Jaime Robles: ‘There is a certain point when changing from verbal art to visual art that the artist’s concerns shift. Both poetry and visual art have physical and material presences; poetry in the orthography of letters, the breaks of lines and placement of words on the field of the page. This, however, is not its primary material manifestation, which is instead aural. Rhythm, metre and the pyrotechnics of sound are poetry’s primary physical reality. It is within this aural world – whether spoken out loud or heard in the reader’s interior voice – that poetry’s meaning is given and apprehended. These are the material concerns of poetry and, like those of visual arts, they focus and concentrate in the body. To accept the idea of our world being limited to or by our words is to deny the body’s sensual experience of the world. Language is a slow phenomenon relative to the body’s perception, experience and understanding of the world.’

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Essayism and Modernity.

Alan Wall: ‘As for essayism, this word is used largely negatively in the nineteenth century, where it originates. It seems to signify something to do with the cant of current opinion, particularly the urbane prattle of the periodical press. It is to be deprecated. Musil’s retrieval of this abusive word is intended as a redemptive manoeuvre, though essayism was not always regarded with favour by his contemporaries.’

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2D or not to be.

Alexander Zubatov: ‘In a stifling orthodoxy, a bit of rebellious cursing and vulgar behavior are healthful antidotes, but in a polity where everyone is cursing unceremoniously and unapologetically, refusing to curse and to be vulgar and being willing to condemn those who do are the kinds of acts of rebellion we need if we are to entertain any hope of putting the brakes on our rapid descent into cultural mediocrity.’

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The cover-letter as manifesto.

Daniel Bosch: ‘Writers who are truly honest about art and pedagogy admit that most of the time both end in failure. At the Bauhaus this fact was bedrock, not pillow-talk: the curriculum was designed around honest play with materials.

‘I believe a Bauhaus-type approach might help lead to needed reform in the teaching of creative writing. So in a cover letter…

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Imaginatio Lego Sum.

Daniel Bosch: ‘With the Legos I played with in the mid- to late-60s—tiny and small, rectangular and square bricks and flat panels in red, blue, yellow, green, white, and black—one constructed a not terribly duck-like “duck” of one’s own. Its modular, additive making, brick by brick—the felt sharpness of its corners and the lifelessness of its individual, abstract plastic elements, the near-conformity of its coloration to a modernist grid, all these characteristics, and more—enabled a more embodied, active, and open engagement with one’s “duck” and with Legos as a medium.’

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In America, are students ‘unprepared for college’?

The short answer: no.

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