Tuesday, May 19, 2009

He is a very great scoundrel

TNY May 8, 2009

from "Back to Basics" by Adam Kirsch on Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Kirsch criticizes Paul Mariani's new Hopkins biography for not acknowledging that what made Hopkins unhappy (as well as happy) was "his religion--or, more precisely, the self-tormenting spirit in which he approached his religion."

"Self-tormenting" is both more precise and more obfuscating. Yes, in damning his own poetic ambitions and achievements, Hopkins was extreme. But he did not torment himself by having homosexual desire. His religion, the homophobic form of Catholicism he believed in, tormented him. 

And Kirsch refuses to make the smallest reference to the poet's homosexuality, though he alludes to it, perhaps, by comparing Hopkins and Whitman. Quoted by Kirsch, Hopkins' letter to Robert Bridges is sad for its internalized homophobia. Bridges had commented that Hopkins' poem "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" reminded him of Whitman. Hopkins replied:

"I believe that you are quite mistaken about this piece. But . . . I may as well say what I should not otherwise have said, that I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman's mind to be more like my own than any other man's living. As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a pleasant confession."

Self-identification and self-condemnation. But not self-tormenting. Hell, as preached by his order, was not in the mind.

*

from David Denby's review of "X-men Origins: Wolverine," "Fighting" and "Tyson":

Violence (not sex) is the bedrock of international mass culture--violent aggression as joyfully dispensed by the male body, whether sheathed (Spide-Man), tuxedoed (Bond), cool in black (Bourne), shirtless, (Sylvester Stallone), hairless (Vin Diesel), or naked (Arnold Schwarzenegger and now Hugh Jackman). Tow new summer-season fictions and a brilliant new documentary fuel our endless desire to see prowess so devastating that it transforms mere force into iconography and fighting into epic struggle.

"transforms mere force into iconography" is well put. But let's not forget movies like "300" and its Classical inspiration. The Iliad made art out of violence too. 

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