Lucretius (lucretius) wrote,

Reading Journal

Re-reading Emerson's Nature for the thirtieth or fortieth time at least.  Transferring my old insights into a new book: re-marking down the underlines and asterisks that flag my usual pauses, dawdles, explications down.  This will be the second time I've taught the essay more or less unhurriedly and at least nominally completely (having 2 1/2 hours to cover it). Last time to undergraduates in the summer, this time to a smaller group of graduate students.  It'll be interesting to see the difference.

When re-reading books I've taught extensively, quite a lot of what I'm doing is remembering a routine, a discussion parallel to the book. The first time you teach, there's a precariousness that there isn't in later teachings: in later teaching, the model of the first discussion gets in the way, intrudes itself, attempts to replicate itself, force the same insights onto another day and another crowd of students.  You won't lose the trail, but you may well twist an ankle in the ruts of previous passages.

Some notes:

Lots of usages of the language of preaching in reference to natural objects -- the fields and woods "minister" a delight.  The natural objects preach.

Image of exfoliation--man casts off his years as a snake his slough.  The ideas of exfoliation and sedimentation--growing from outside, despositing in layers--seem to be fundamentally Transcendental metaphors.  E, Th, Edward Carpenter, all use these a lot:  our personality, our customs and habits, are all skins that protect but need to be shed to grow. Likewise the bug of the soul, in Walden, needs to tunnel its way out of the rings of tree that have grown up around it and encysted it.  

In parallel, the images of fashion and clothing fads as metonymy of novelty and the tyranny of social opinion, as well as the necessessity for change. Emerson asks early on in Nature whether we would "put the living generation into masquerade out of [the past's] faded wardrobe."  Whereas Thoreau (in one of the more comic sections of Walden) is put out that his seamstress won't find or make him clothes of the cut he wants, saying "they" don't make them anymore like that.  And Whitman always proposes being "undisguised and naked."

E says that nature can repair any calamity that leaves him his eyes.  The Blind Transcendentalists.  Rock band name?

The appearance of nature is like a conspiracy in E between the structure of the eye and the laws of light.

"There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful." (Clearly E never stood in flourescents). -- I think T makes a dead horse his example.

Classics mirror nature mirrors classics--ex 1 ""Was there no meaning in the live repose of the valley behind the mill, and which Homer or Shakespeare could not re-form for me in words?" (131)

Word of the day "calices".   pl of "calix"  The OED has it:
:A cup; a cup-like cavity or organ; e.g. the truncated termination of the branches of the ureter in the kidney; the wall of the Graafian follicle, from which an ovum has escaped; the cup-like body of a crinoid or coral which is placed on the top of the stem; the body of a Vorticella; a cup-shaped depression in the upper part of the theca of a coralligenous zoophyte, which contains the stomach-sac (sometimes in French form calice). Also, Gr. Antiq. = cylix.

"Go out of your house to see the moon, and 't is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey" (131).   Cf "Each and All"

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