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Beauty
September 27, 2005 12:41 PM   Subscribe

On Beauty and Being Just, by Elaine Scarry, and an interview with her in Salon. It's up to you.
posted by semmi (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Nice post. I've been seeking an excuse to read Scarry, and these Tanner Lectures will be just that excuse, although all I can do is skim through it today. Her argument seems to be distinctly Platonic, but perhaps that's just true in the skimming of it.

I wonder what people who know more about her think of these lectures? I don't have her very well situated in my mind in relation to other thinkers and writers.
posted by OmieWise at 1:12 PM on September 27, 2005


I found her captivating when I heard her on the radio about three years ago. As a result, I went out and bought a couple of her books, both of which I thought were dense and uninspiring.
posted by alms at 1:31 PM on September 27, 2005


Here's the text in straight-up PDF format.
posted by the sobsister at 2:32 PM on September 27, 2005


the sobsister's corrected pdf link
posted by freshgroundpepper at 2:52 PM on September 27, 2005


alms, I don't know what books you bought, but Dreaming by the Book is one of the best critical books I've ever read -- it's absolutely beautiful in itself.
posted by josh at 5:06 PM on September 27, 2005


Beauty restores your trust in the world. During this past 13 years I've been working on a big project about nuclear weapons and the fact that the current military arrangements we have are not compatible with democracy. The more I work on that, the more it happens that I need to read poems. And work my garden. Beauty restores your trust in the world.

Thank you.

I found her captivating when I heard her on the radio about three years ago. As a result, I went out and bought a couple of her books, both of which I thought were dense and uninspiring.

It could be that her academic writing is less accessible than her popular media interviews -- they might be totally inspiring to an academic philosopher. That said, I admit that I bought "Body in Pain" years ago and never got past page three...
posted by footnote at 5:54 PM on September 27, 2005


(by "thank you" I meant "thanks for linking me to that paragraph, semmi," not "thanks, I am beautiful"...oh, never mind!)
posted by footnote at 5:55 PM on September 27, 2005


josh--Can you say more about it? I'm very curious.
posted by OmieWise at 5:58 PM on September 27, 2005


Omniewise -- Dreaming by the Book is about the techniques writers use to create visual images in the mind of the reader. So the book looks at many, many writers -- Homer, Tolstoy, Wordsworth, Proust, and so on -- explaining how they create such vivid images. It's full of amazing examples: at one early moment in the book, she asks you to imagine various lights in your mind, then asks you to make them quiver, surge, coalesce -- and then afterwards it turns out you've just imagined a scene from the Iliad. When she quotes the passage, you see that you really have.

The book involves a lot of cognitive science; probably the most interesting question it asks has to do with why flowers and plants are used so much in literature to describe motion. It's very accessibly written and very fascinating and beautiful. Honestly, for me, it felt like a model of exactly the kind of criticism I'd like to write, and it also taught me to be a better, more visually attuned reader.

The Body in Pain is a really serious, long book. It is definitely 'academic'--but it's worth noting, for folks who haven't read her books, that they aren't, IMO, jargon-heavy academic-ese. To the extent they're dense, they're simply that -- densely packed with information and argument, the way, I think, books should be. The Body in Pain, which is about how pain is can and cannot be represented in literature, and, from that, about how pain works against meaning, is really fascinating as well. She has an essay in her collection "Resisting Representation" on advertisements about pain medicine that is really a kind of short foretaste of the kind of writing she does in the longer book which is worth checking out.

Anyhow, as I said: I can't recommend Dreaming by the Book enough, it's great. As for On Beauty, I know a good number of people who have taken the semianr with her here and loved it; the book itself I haven't read, unfortunately.
posted by josh at 4:08 AM on September 28, 2005


josh-Thanks, that was exactly the kind of description I was looking for, and, as I suspected, Scarry sounds right up my alley.
posted by OmieWise at 4:32 AM on September 28, 2005


Great link; thanks.
posted by washburn at 9:26 AM on September 28, 2005


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