Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Paperoles and Glass

Last night I made another stab at reducing the pile of unread magazines and journals, and read TLS July 11 2008.

from Peter Brook's review of Michael Murphy's Proust and America:

But Murphy subtly and convincingly argues that Proust's sense of the "metaphorics of retrospection" has an Emersonian cast: the "looping-the-loop" by which we return to our earlier selves, and which opens on to Marcel's eventual discovery that the writer's task is that of translator--of life, of nature--recalls Emerson's sense of nature as a place of signsm a place engaged in a perpetual writing. Proustian metaphor espouses the famous Emersonian credo that words are signs of natural facts, and natural facts are signs of spiritual facts.

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If "love" in Proust is self-torturingm riven with jealousy, doubt and a masochistic need to witness the beloved's infidelity, this is part and parcel of the detective work that characterizes his novel, as it does Poe's work. Sexual curiosity provokes a true epistemophilia: an eroticized drive to know.

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Late in the novel Proust analogizes the composition of his novel--put together from papers glued together to permit exfoliating additions, the famous paperoles, so named by the faithful family servant Francoise--to the work of dressmaking. Murphy comments: "If fashion by its very evanescence embodies Time, it is the dressmaker who stitches together the different strands and materials. If Time is to be made visible it is not through the permanent, the aim of which is to deny Time exists let alone that it passes, but through the ephemeral."


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from Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's review of Isobel Armstrong's Victorian Glassworlds: Glass culture and the imagination, 1830-1880:

The reality of Victorian glass production in the "gross matrial world" was far less charming. Most glass was still hand-blown, a form of manusfacture which was always dangerous and often lethal. (In one centre of glass production, Stourbridge, it has been calculated that about 30 per cent of glass makers died before the age of forty and about half before fifty.) The "exhalation" of the Crystal Palace was constructed from 956, 000 square feet of glass panels, each of which carried traces of its own manufacture in the tiny blemishes created by human breath, which flitted in and out of sight like ghosts, according to whether the glass was being looked at or merely looked through. It was the largest example ever seen of Marx's argument that labour is "crystallized" in industrial artefacts, and a monumental witness to what was often sentimentalized as the workman's sigh.

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Consider Henry James's Maisie, who hears life being discussed by adults so often that she expeiences an "odd air of being present at her history in as separate a manner as if she could only get at experience by flattening her nose against a pane of glass." Or Lewis Carroll's Alice, who is brought to realize how shifty scale is in Looking-Glass World when she is observed by the train guard "first through a telescope, then through a microscope, an then through an opera-glass". Or Tennyson's Mariana, whose moated grange includes a "blue fly" which "sang in the pane": a sad echo of her own trapped state but also a concentrated image of the writer, who transforms suffering into art.


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