What Is Wisdom?

We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, and effort which no one can spare us.- Marcel Proust (In Search of Lost Time Vol. II: Within a Budding Grove, 1919)

Proust was on to something. I think there is profound truth to the notion that it is only through our own experience that we gain wisdom. I also believe that there are certain kinds of experiences that are particularly suited to the development of wisdom.

Take a moment and think of someone whom you consider wise. Perhaps it is a revered spiritual or political leader, a grandparent or one of your high school teachers, maybe a pastor or a college professor, or perhaps, as one medical student expressed, it is the person who cleans the hallways of the hospital at night. What qualities or behaviors make you think they are wise? Finally, how do you think that they got so wise?

Excerpt from an article written by Margaret Plews-Ogan at BQO. Continue THERE

Art/Aesthetics · Human-ities

Proust’s Mother

There are texts that seem to require a certain craziness of us, a mismeasure of response to match the extravagance of their expression. But can a mismeasure be a match? All we know is that we don’t want to lose or reduce the extravagance but can’t quite fall for it either. An example would be Walter Benjamin’s wonderful remark about missed experiences in Proust:

None of us has time to live the true dramas of the life that we are destined for. This is what ages us – this and nothing else. The wrinkles and creases on our faces are the registration of the great passions, vices, insights that called on us; but we, the masters, were not at home.

Even without the ‘nothing else’ this is a pretty hyperbolic proposition. With the ‘nothing else’ it turns into a form of madness, a suggestion that we shall not grow old at all unless we keep failing to receive the passions, vices and insights that come to see us. This would be a life governed by new necessities, entirely free from the old ones, exempt from time and biology. The sentences are clear enough but don’t read easily as fantasy or figure of speech. Benjamin is asking us to entertain this magical thought for as long as we can, and not to replace it too swiftly by something more sensible.

Excerpt from Proust and His Mother by Michael Wood at London Review. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Philosophy · Social/Politics · Theory

Queer and Then?

Duke University Press ends its influential Series Q this month. It has been an impressive ride since the first book in the series: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s landmark 1993 collection of essays, Tendencies. Rereading her introduction, “Queer and Now,” I am reminded of the potent sense of possibility opened up 20 years ago by the idea of queer theory. The sense of a historical moment is strong in the essay, as its title underscores. Sedgwick’s optimism was far from naïve; the same introduction disclosed her diagnosis of breast cancer, which she lived with and against until her death in 2009. Fittingly, the last volume released by Series Q is a posthumous collection of her remaining essays, The Weather in Proust.

Taken together, Sedgwick’s death, the passage of time, and the news from Duke all seem to be occasions for taking stock. Even before the press’s decision, many in the field were already in a retrospective mood. A recent book in the same series, After Sex? On Writing Since Queer Theory, asked leading queer theorists to look back on the great ferment of the last two decades. The title of the book seems to place queer theory firmly in the past, though the editors, Janet Halley and Andrew Parker, generously shift the emphasis in their introduction: “What has queer theory become now that it has a past?”

The answer depends on how much queer theory is defined by the speculative energy that the phrase itself generated in the 1990s. The label, after all, came into circulation only after the major theoretical innovations that defined it—in the work of Michel Foucault, Gayle Rubin, Leo Bersani, the early Sedgwick, Judith Butler, as well as many others. Those writers had already developed an analysis of sexuality that looked to relations of power rather than to individual psychology or “orientation.” And they had already shown that sex, pleasure, and the formation of sexual cultures posed deep challenges to the normative frameworks by which some kinds of sex are legitimated and institutionalized as the proper form of sexuality. As several contributors to After Sex? point out, queer theory’s intellectual concerns have given rise to newer kinds of work, and are continued under other rubrics.

When Teresa de Lauretis and her colleagues at the University of California at Santa Cruz organized a conference called “Queer Theory” in 1990, it was manifestly provocative. The term “queer” in those days was not yet a cable-TV synonym for gay; it carried a high-voltage charge of insult and stigma. The term caught on because it seemed to catalyze many of the key insights of previous years and connect them to a range of politics and constituencies that were already developing outside academe, in a way that looked unpredictable from the start. At the 1991 Lesbian and Gay Studies Conference at Rutgers University at New Brunswick—the fifth to be held since John Boswell started the meetings at Yale University in 1987 and exponentially larger than its predecessors—the informal talk about “queer” was almost as frisky as the cruising.

A paper by Michael Warner at the The Chronicle Review. Continue HERE