Works and Days

Heuristic Debris, Remains of Professor Nicolello

On the Narratology of Concept-Being, Lecture Seven: In Search of Plotinian Order

We began these discourses tinkering with the idea of whether it was a fruitful idea to advance Cole’s epistemological wager in a manner that fills in the blanks of postcritique’s recounted limitations with new directions, and now turn to a source that I have nowhere seen appear in literature studies pro- or contra-Cole, that of Eric D. Perl’s Theophany – as the book aside from Plotinus concerns Pseudo-Dionysius, who Cole also notes as a key dialectical thinker[1] – it has for a time struck me as an ideal source for the student seeking order in literary cognition, or insight, that is dissatisfied with the Marx-forward approach, or in that case, stalemate. In Perl we are dealing with a Neoplatonic scholar whose book, thin and dense, sees Plotinian texts and commentary peppered throughout in a manner highly conducive to the student of literature by way of a perpetual intertextual engagement of dialectical identity/difference, ranging from Plotinus’s life prior to writing up to and through contemporary engagement with scholars, commentators through the century long overshadowed by Aristotelian predominance. Further, what emerges from Perl’s dialectical accounts of Plotinus is a portrait of a figure whose negative theology is concisely in rhythm with a hypothetically enormous impact in the field of literary studies in an age of permanent sexualized technologies. And I believe this is so because of Perl’s Dionysian work on Plotinus that I shall herein review, particularly concerning the movement of conceptual appearance in text and thought to reality[2] as well as identity/difference in Perl’s portrayal of Plotinian literary cognition has greater implications for a new methodological historiography, which I have declared is a prerequisite to any future reinstallations of literary-theoretical discourse.

            Plotinus’s being-made-to-be is for Perl an apprehension of higher-level thinking that will eventually technologize itself into a rejection of fireside lore, orality. What this means is that Plotinus was well aware, seventeen-hundred years ago, that dialectical thinking run amok risks the undisciplined process of running off its rails unless it is kept in check. Today we can see this in among several fashions, a pair worth noting in particular: technological advancements that have led to digital rather than paper pages, and the proliferation of cinematic immersion that has rendered would-be readers skeptical of the mere page, what with its silence, 26 letters, and dubious black ink. But here we must again fully understand Cole’s construction of Hegelian recentralization in light of the Plotinian measure of refurnishing a dialectic of mute perception, or reading, which is not solely technological reconsideration but also an ancient concerned merged with theory’s continual rejection of surface-level entities, exemplified in the way that Plotinus could not stay put with Plato.

            For Perl, Plotinus’s meditations on Platonism, a school that he both revolutionized and in his neglected way transcended, are not unlike the theorist today seeking to move beyond spokesmen and forerunners as cults of personality, who are at the same time cognizant of the predicament’s semiotic cementing of a revolutionary place in dialectical thinking. The idea for Plotinus was not discredit or abolish Plato, and I feel the same way even as concerns more tarnished reputations, such as de Man or Althusser – like Plotinus on Plato, I advocate studying these figures for the simple reason that anything less than doing so is a denigration of one’s theoretical mastery, or personal framework. At the same time, there is the need of offering up participatory causality in light of the textual One, or eclipse of limitation: “Reversion, in fact, is nothing other than participation, the participation of the determined effect in its causal determination, considered as an activity of the participant.”[3] This idea, in time picked up by Pseudo-Dionysius,[4] is designed to furnish the perceptive apparatus in order to free up the possibility to transcend both choice and necessitation by transcending the space between them. Choice, in the Heideggerian sense, is the hermeneutic facticity of reality: that how one approaches it is a choice.[5] Literary fiction, and hence theory, is a testament to the transcending of choice and necessitation. It offers a choice to read that is itself a ready-made heuristic canon: modes of reading; schools of thought; the individual; the group; the scholar; the artist; the laity; the type of fiction. And what of necessitation? Plotinus says, in so many strokes of Neoplatonic genius: Think in order to live. Write in order to live. Choice and necessitation, for Plotinus, are not abstractions that are lost in technological upheaval;[6] they are rather ever-present origins of dialectical thinking on the way to literary-theoretical cognition.

            But whereas suspicious hermeneutics is wont to excoriate the soul if it is to acknowledge it at all, the Plotinian preoccupation that leads to Hegelian Geist is unconcerned with whether one has a soul or not. Rather, the dialectical concern is that preoccupation of mortals which can neither be definitively put to rest nor empirically proven. One proclaiming to have evidence of the soul is in the same camp as one proclaiming to have extinguished it, entertaining archival finality wherein the dialectician sees an abstract essence eternally returning all over the world. Its essence is therein the essence of essence, the very existence of conceptual nonexistence; in this way it mirrors both literary cognition and technological identity, matters of disruptive simulation weathered by the stages of ideology and the state, formerly feudal dialectics and negative theology.[7] Suspicious is thus never abandoned, but entered into a formulaic discourse whereby subjectivity is held captive by the state apparatus: “To be is the activity of a being; and herein lies the possibility of evil.”[8] To be online is the activity; ‘cancel culture’ is the permanent idea of identifying evil in public and non-public figures and nailing them, like flies, against the digital wall. If religious evil has vanished from Western dogmatic thinking, it is mistaken; it has rather transferred, seamlessly, from the ecclesiastical public square into the political discourse of object, home, and portability.  

            Criticism, in transcending itself, still faces the issue of its various processions as simply more and less universal modes of the same divine presence. Consider that “Pseudo-Dionysius’ doctrine of analogous participation in God is thus closely parallel to Plotinus’ teaching that the nature of all things is their share in contemplation or intellectual activity (which itself is the manifestation of the One), so that the life of plants is a ‘growth-thought’ and that of animals a ‘sense-thought'” (3.8.8.14-15).[9] But what is perhaps even more engrossing for the literary dialectician is that the Intellect, for Plotinus, is not some abstract notion between wisdom and folly; it is rather a concrete, immutable level of discourse and historicism that is readily available rather than scarce.[10] A population may veer away from Intellect, or a community might have the notion it has not only run up against a brick wall but has replaced Intellectual with a steady institutional stream of such well-wrought walls; but whether or not a land or community is for it or against it, Plotinian Intellect is immunity incarnate, traversing all countries and space in peace, and indifferent to the oscillating patterns of persons. It warrants a heavenly order that, in its presence, does away with despising human beings.

This immutability-incarnate is also a perpetual process of unfolding that is particularly conducive to texts:

            In Plotinus’ system, according to a conventional but superficial reading, the One    generates Intellect, which in turn generates Soul, which in turn generates the sensible   cosmos; and sensible things, on this view, are not produced directly by the One but stand          at several removes from it. But in fact, each level is not another being additional to its            prior, as though the One were one thing, Intellect a second, Soul a third, and the sensible           a fourth. Rather, each level down in the differentiated appearance, the expression, the             unfolding of its prior, so that the content is the same throughout all levels, in differing       degrees and diffusion.[11]

By differentiating theoretical terminus from its conceptual-historical moment of unfolding, the literary scholar is given the tools to engage the greater textual problems with a technology of critique that is not bound, by automatic ideology, to an eternal return of suspicious hermeneutics. Nor is one trapped in the scenario whereby dogmatic identity defeats itself in prejudicing itself in the game of, “You’re not me, so you cannot possibly know my struggle”; such identity is non-identity, its difference a mishandling of dialectical difference that is steadily developed from Plotinus to Hegel.[12]

For both Cole and Perl, Plotinus’s identity/difference is correlated with the causal presence of hypostases.[13] Hypostasis is the last of Plotinian realities,[14] following the One and Intellect, predicated upon stability and movement.[15] This movement and stability – like Hegel’s Geist, or novelistic construction – indicates a development that is fathomed through conceptual history without ever being apprehended (outside of aesthetic-epiphanic insight, which is in turn methodological revelation). The moment of aesthetic intuition cannot be understood until the subject has reached a place of reflexive exile, temporarily removed from the preordained. This may well come about in a public setting – but it will not be understood by the general public. Moving from historical patterns, it latches onto the identity and difference of a Subject: suddenly Augustus, from the typological point of view, is split in half: Augustus is on the one hand a man well-known by generally unknown men. On the other, medieval theology renders him a typological casting in the divine, dramatic brutalities of Christological ebb and flow. For a moment no one is pointing fingers but rather existing. This aura of transcendence is the Plotinian intuition behind both the composition of a text and its continuation in the public sphere. Notice I did not say “second life”, or “after life”; rather, let us consider the text from a musical point of view: the words, just like a song with or without them itself, stays with us after it has been completed. The totality of the aesthetic object is no longer conceptually a dialectical matter of identity and difference but always has been. Even before Plotinus, it was on the way to Plotinus. There may well be traces in the pre-Socratics, or the Sophists for the matter;[16] but we cannot compare the Plotinian system to the Platonic or Aristotelian in the same way that we cannot compare the critic to the author or the musician to the listener. Pluralism discounts individuation, thereby cavalierly advocating an abstract utopianism; for we cannot say that the guitar-listener and the guitar-player approach the sound of a guitar the same way, as we cannot compare a marathon runner to one daydreaming of a treadmill.[17]

Method in Ontology:

Plotinus and the Apophaticism of Literary Theory

The manifestations of philosophic silence deployed by Plotinus often take the form of extended literary techniques; as his writing style typically flows along a series of problems and investigates different ways to approach them, reflecting the discussions from which the Enneads were in part drawn, isolated citations rarely do justice to what he is doing in a literary sense.[18]

What looks like politics, and imagines itself to be political, will one day unmask itself as a religious movement.[19]

As far as Aristotle was concerned, after untold efforts they found a subtle means of reconciling him not only with Plato, but with Plotinus.[20]

This lecture unpacks Andrews Cole’s survey of Plotinus in his Birth of Theory, expanding Cole’s Hegelian-theoretical reconsideration in a manner that engages contemporary theorists. While laying a vaster foundation for what it means for Plotinus to serve as the beginning to re-understanding what Theory is by unpacking Cole’s prolegomena, my project in a sense takes up where Foucault’s History of Sexuality halted; but this archaeology of return, and a complete rejection of identity-as-liberation, are the sole two – albeit key – Foucauldian aspects of my thesis. I, like Cole, set Plotinus first in a lineage of neglected philosophers who answer questions that hitherto appear – to critics – unanswerable. Plotinus signals the inception of a chain of philosophers culminating in Hegel which Theory, by neglecting, cannot otherwise expect to find an adequate language through which understand itself (or direction). That literary theorists have valued fragments of philosophical and historical texts has not resulted in a new way of understanding literature, but a way of understanding where an absolute poverty of historical and philosophical knowledge leads; and that in Plotinus we have ripostes that others claim are yet-to-come or unavailable until Kant or Heidegger. Plotinus is also neglected precisely because it is inconceivable for so many theorists to go back further than Kant, let alone to the third century; but this is not a matter of progress; it is a matter of dialectical anthropology. Were this project to take on the scope of a monograph or book-length study, there is a host of neglected gems that in fact gel harmoniously with Cole’s groundwork.[21] But for I we utilize a Dionysian negative-theological approach to see where Harman and Felski are mistaken, on the wrong track, and why a conceptive, Plotinian process of theory’s ‘birth’ is perhaps the right one: an epistemology of historical and philosophical immersion rather than sexual technologies and temporal modernities.

Ordo Ab Chao

Andrew Cole’s idea is that literary theory comes into its own with Hegel through a cycle beginning with Plotinus. In order to understand this, however, we must give Plotinus more than a couple of pages to understand the magnitude of Cole’s wager. I therefore now offer a critical account of Plotinus that is (understandably) lacking in Cole’s text, dissecting the great Neoplatonist through a dialogical critique of two contemporary scholars, Graham Harman and Rita Felski.[22] Harman and Felski have recently published theories for a literary-theoretical future that I find make for a lukewarm forecast peppered with occasional epigram; the intellectual aura[23] these writers claim to seek to recapture is completely absent, though not due to what they are looking for, but rather that the totality of their systematics is predicated upon, in both cases, faulty premises. It is a part of this logical absence that I believe is more comprehensible than either make it sound. Detective work guided by emotional politics is no longer the variation; rather, what is needed is the cold logic of historiographical investigation.

It is thus the pair’s narrow conceptual diagnostics that propel us to better understand the Plotinian remedy therein: either author calls for a utopian future in the name of a feigned anti-utopianism that is predicated on a critical underestimation of identity and difference. Harman is mistaken in his rejection of the former,[24] while Felski descends a crooked timber of Deleuzian misreading that ends in emotional appeal; the theoretical options Felski brings to the fore are thus cataclysmically insubstantial in their treatment, despite at least some substantive observations. Without the historical comprehension of identity and difference, though, neither these authors nor any other is going to develop a coherent systematic for authentic proceeding in literary studies. For a key, if subconscious, part of this “crisis” goes beyond technology and into an inauthenticity of jargon, and must confront the crisis of comfortability from a Sorelian point of view[25] on the way to a deconstruction of sexual technology that begins in classical antiquity. For this inauthenticity is itself predicated upon linguistic ambiguities that abound in theory’s ongoing cults of personality,[26] but it is not a sickness that is going to change by curricula or condemning conspiracy theorists. In fact, the sign that both Felski and Latour are even compelled to mention such dubious sources is neither humorous nor enlightening, but indicative of the course having run its gambit. It is by replacing the history and structure of identity and difference with utopian cunning and political religions that the mess began, and it is by comprehending the path from Plotinus to Hegel alone that any authentic sense can be made of novelistic discourse and its gatekeepers. Lastly, the reason this road has not yet been traveled is vast: first, there is the awkwardness in realizing that one’s literary tools do not end with either Heidegger or Kant.

Now of course, one may well do so; but in so doing, one renders obsolete one’s claim to epistemological clarity, as it is simply untrue that our understanding of literature begins with Kant. Hence, the circularity with which this greater conceptual process entails contains uncomfortable truths. One might consider Etienne Gilson’s observation that Augustine beat Descartes to everything Cartesian ideology rests upon by over a thousand years, by simply reading Montaigne in light of medievalism;[27] and that on the contemporaneous hand it is not a greater, progressing human freedom but Donald Trump that is the culmination of those “leftist politics” Harman mentions by name and Felski cannot afford to take into account.[28] What, then, can one do? The literary scholar may, I suggest, come to terms with the outrageous poverty Theory works with in its disregard for virtually all philosophical history while feigning a rigorous philosophical discourse with texts. The second that scholars are willing to stop acting surprised at that which is perfectly causal is the second that we are ready to confront Plotinus.

Let us hypothesize the briefest of exercises concerning the inclusiveness of literary-theoretical studies: imagine listing all the greatest philosophers, famous and not, canonical or despised, everyone and thing in between, who are alien to literary theoreticians. In no time one with even the scarcest philosophical knowledge would be concocting voluminous lists. But here is the key: it would not be a list for the sake of making a list of what’s-not-there; it is rather that Literary Theory claims to work with Literature, guided by Philosophy – all of it. And thus, all that could ever be adequate in tandem with this idea of critique would be a mainline of unlimited types of philosophical thought throughout the ages; a school that offers an intellectual inclusiveness whose flag it waves but cannot comprehend putting into any sort of practice. Indeed, were Theory to actualize itself it would end up birthing a glorious new school altogether. One does not enjoy doing surgery on it; but let us imagine, for a change, not putting another coat of paint upon a house that is collapsing. One needn’t seek another meager system, nor more of the State, nor newspaper paraphraseology: one needs an actual immersion in the hermeneutic facticity of rudimentary principles and hereditary figures in the genesis and structure of narratological discourse.

Hence, it is not a matter of actors, networks, tools; with the switch-blade immediacy of Heideggerian thrownness[29] one should pass over toolboxes, screwdrivers, sheds and theodolites alike, delving into the genealogy of medievalism, feudalism, from late antiquity into Hegel and the French Revolution, beginning at the beginning – with Plotinus.

Method in Ontology

In order to understand where the Plotinian idea of literary theory takes root we must first define two recurring themes for Plotinus: the One and the Intellectual Principle. This One stands for unity[30] and identity, and the Intellectual Principle for difference and plurality.[31] Straightaway we are working with a duality that differs from the archetypal[32] Athenian school of Platonic-Aristotelian ‘One and the many.’[33] Insofar as we acknowledge this tradition we consciously or subconsciously acknowledge another in Plotinus’s isolated case: that unlike Iamblichus of Syria,[34] the profundity of Plotinus’s thought has no direct correlation to Christianity’s triumph over Rome and the fused, or absorbed, paganistic schools of philosophy and theology therein; and unlike Proclus, effective oddity has not come into historically singular fruition as per an exorcised polymorphism of human consciousness.[35] Plotinus is to this extent in the world of classical antiquity but not quite of it; the imperceptible One is something other than God, or one of the gods. A more general unity and identity might call to mind concrete image, concept of laid bricks or a brick’s hue; but Plotinus here has in mind a One that is attainable through strict intellectual practice, structurally unified through its illuminating identity’s interior gifts for the philosopher-scholar. It is unlike the Ideas or Forms of Plato in that the One is both a process and a summit, the epitome of the Real.[36] The Intellectual Principle, then, is a hypostasis that transcends the soul; production begins in earnest at the advent of perfection-as-verb.[37]

The One, in another way, is for us twofold. We could take it up in Plotinian terms and tread a straight line of textual analysis; but this will be saved for part two. For now let us cut right to the chase and consider the twofold theological-negative realm to this Plotinian blueprint for theory, in that the One is the text, the Intellectual Principle its life upon entering the public square and thereafter opening itself up to difference (not-self) and plurality (critics), or differential pluralities (or further still, plurality through negative dialectics).[38] This line of thinking takes us beyond the point of a general sense of wonder and to the cusp of “the semantic reflection of emanation, and an overflow of meaning, transcendence, and immanence.”[39] At stake for Plotinus was certainly the relationship between author and text (Although Plotinus did originally teach oral – not written – lessons, with a vow of silence beset upon his pupils), emanating from the perceived and the transcendent. What becomes of this is, I believe, less a ‘secularization’ of literary-philosophical text, than a mutation of consciousness that is another textual aspect entirely, one of secular metaphysics not unlike what Fiction came in time to signify.

But the demanding stimulation of theory basking in the light of novelty could not help but burn out in mere decades so long as it had no idea of where it came from, and hence where it might end. By abandoning sanity, a monomaniacal obsession with conceptual progress that has neither an actual end-game nor a system of logical discourse cannot help but become a perpetual recourse to the new, or temporality, and hence dependent upon the insubstantial, was born. It is in other words beyond dosage and trapped within the operative, causal system of living off of what is destroying its structure, which is a theory without assemblage. Neither Artaud’s body without organs nor Zizek’s organs without bodies, but a school of architects who have never read Vitruvius due to a burning, irreligious evangelism that cannot justify – and never has – said historiographical and methodological poverty. Nietzsche at least paved the path for a man who both did LSD in Death Valley and died of AIDS and could still abhor the ‘Summer of Love’ and identarian glaucoma; this sort of thing, reality in philosophical and literary history, is no longer shocking when one is in pursuit of the One. Earlier still, Augustine will after Plotinus enter into the conception of theory in a way that, incidentally, leads to the erudition of Pseudo-Dionysian negative theology; and all of this runs in an illuminated, literary-theoretical line, unconsciously, albeit now evidently, within the sphere of Plotinian “ontological self-mastery.”[40] Whether or not the text entails a theological reception or thematic is for Plotinus irrelevant to its epistemological bent in being-of-itself in the dialectic of identity/difference. We might ask then, in the Plotinian spirit, does not monotheistic thought, from oath to being, entail the same – that is the Name, or Focus on the one hand, and its contemplative not-self is the other?

If it does, it must be noted that this Great Architect cannot be broken down into the Plotinian quadrangular cognition of multiplicity by means of successive impression. For the Enneads is a documentarian ascent in the religion of philosophy, an apotheosis of textual transmission and care for an interior narrative castle. As such, the concept differentiates from the totality of negative being; the future can only ever exist in terms of the past; for the not-arrived is nonexistent but when it arrives it both appears and culminates at once.

This force of proximity to the textual One of Plotinus is directly tied to the furnishing of intellect as the principle mission in life, itself the subconscious driving a literary theory done well. Platonic Forms are active but also actively disrupted; in apprehending the text one engages in the simultaneous practice of revelation and dissolving. Traditional measures of God do not converge with the quantitative aspects of Plotinian philosophizing, which is multiplied by impressions until it sees the One. This is a concept that will later be taken up by Bonaventure and Walter Hilton, among so many more. For Plotinus textual transmission is a step en route to multiplicity, wherein we perceive a shade of literary theory in that not only can the novel or poem no longer “speak for itself”, but in fact never could. Likewise, Bloom’s poetical mis-readings give way to Jamesonian dissolving of happenstance, which itself is tinted with a conscious Augustinian – and thus Neoplatonic – light. Plotinus therefore apprehends likeness and the literality of parallels,[41] discrediting receptive ambiguities of the text in taking the dialectical process to its limits, as the critic renders the author’s archival finality of an ending and reinjects the preordained object with a scaffolding of heuristic canons. It is for this reason Cole notes that the Plotinian-critical-theoretical strand took aim at authority before it became the authority by usurping the silent codes of well-kept oligarchical gates; it confronts that most imaginary of things, reality. Likewise, for Plotinus repetition and abstraction culminate in a dialogical subjectivity that does not lead to suspicion but rather is born in suspicion. For this reason, Cole affirms, a definitive turn away from suspicion will not suffice without diluting itself and thus disintegrating back into hermeneutic morality plays:

Examining Hegel’s words in the Plotinian frame we realize that both the tarrying and the looking convert the negative into being in that uniquely phenomenological way: there is delay so as to acquire vision, to see what is at first unseeable, to undergo a formative experience (Bildungs-Erfahrung) that, through repetition, sharpens perception and establishes the phenomenological investigation of appearances… what, in other words, logically mediates the immediacy between being and nothing works, as well and quite easily, at subsequent, more mediated, less aporetic moments. That ‘what’ is identity/difference.[42]

Plotinus and Hegel both employ abstract determination in a way that Plato cannot, as his commitments are neither theoretical nor historiographical enough,[43] whereas Claude Romano takes this idea and today calls for a return to Husserl, proclaiming the priority of a pre-linguistic order.[44] By setting their works within the dialectical vigor of theory and historiography, Plotinus and Hegel reap the fruits of refined typology, borne of an interrelated philosophical consciousness that seeks to move from shadow to reality as concerns the prospect of moving from pre-linguistic order to conceptual history – or the One, the Concept, or Absolute.[45] Predating the dialectical semiotics of Hegel’s systematic Phenomenology by fifteen-hundred years, Plotinus throughout the Enneads confronts delimitation and deconstruction by means of a referential openness which lends itself to a generation of meaning within the text-itself; today we might conceive of the most accurate novel that could ever be written simply having each word in quotation marks. For Plotinus, however, the term hoion (as it were) is utilized in such a sense in order to signify the line between symbolic language and terminological negativity.[46] Here the phenomenologist is also in business in returning to Plotinus regarding the question of language, as in our case the literary theorist is in a less synthetic place by moving backward, rather than forward, from the architects of suspicious hermeneutics (but especially Marx, for the sake of comprehending Marx – rather than Marxism).

Of all the different ways one may pursue, study, unravel the One, there is for Plotinus totality and infinity lurking in a concrete literary sense beneath the veneer of manifest subjectivity. It is no wonder Levinas’s Existence and Existents is rife with poetical memory: his prison camp wherewithal must move from the perceptual oblivion of eternity to a concern with moving from the referential to theoria; it does not, cannot matter that ideas seem to crystallize somewhere beyond the limits of thoughts; for this is itself a coincidence of opposites, or spatial dialectic, predicated upon the linear logic of delimited reference:[47]

Dialectic works with things as they are – existents, as it were, its materials – following a method by which it possesses, together with the statement about them, the objects themselves. Dialectic knows error and sophism only indirectly: discerning another’s error to be alien to the truths within itself, thus recognizing what is advanced as counter to the canon of truth.[48]  

For both Plotinus and, on the other hand Harman, the subject matter, or dialectic, is a unity of opposites. It is the text and its reception; the critic and the text; the object and the method; the group and the other from which all syntheses flow. But the Plotinian dialectic of Identity and Difference is also critical for Harman’s theory because of its concern with ontology, and the value-claim for its method. Plotinus considers dialectic “the most valuable part of philosophy”;[49] it strikes one as a means of adding more concrete form to Harman’s argument, by – if utilizing philosophical history at all, or as literature’s handmaiden – to go all the way. Philosophy is not the handmaiden of literary theory; but nor is dialectic its handmaiden. For prior to Cervantes there were about twelve centuries of prose that brushed against what would become known as literature, theory, and literary theory. There are moments in philosophy, theology, and medieval history writing where either of the genres appear substantive as literary genres. By offering in a moment an example of my and Cole’s method, laying a Hegelian groundwork that looks backward in order to shine a foregoing light on otherwise apparently cloudy, foggy terrain in what theory is, we can seek further whether or not stopping at Kant is predicated upon logically faulty premises. Despite wealth of knowledge and depth of probity, are such readings themselves in fact chronologically and typologically limited?

My Plotinian answer to all this talk of actors, tools, guerillas, networks, and boxes while trying to ‘understand’ ‘where’ theory is ‘going’ is precisely concerned with what Cole refers to as the “wholesale omission of the great middle of intellectual history.”[50] Plotinus looks ahead to the Middle Ages, that place where today’s literary scholar ought to look lest permanent – and needless – bewilderment reign, while Hegel looks back at Plotinus. For either writer, in the spirit of literature and its theory, entity is determinate, containing difference within itself; it does so by the essence of contradiction as the generative essential.[51] Elusiveness is revealed as a matter of lacking dialectical proximity, the force field preventing a move from text to action is revealed empirically subjective and subjectively empirical, connotating the death drive as linguistic life in the spirit. Plotinus moves from Aristotle’s contained probity[52] and ornamental rhetoric to ontology, metaphysics, and cosmology. We might consider a fitting analogy in that everyone in Ireland who read Jonathan Swift understood his maniacal genius at once. But he could not spawn disciples, because of his rich, inimitable corpus. Such is the stature hoisted upon the theoretician: a trickle-down pondering.

The Handmaiden’s Tale

That which cannot be imitated signals the further mutation of collective consciousness and thus collective memory, which then gives way to further components,[53] one of them being an aspect of Harman’s article, when we read that “Despite what Derrida thinks, the problem is not self-presence, otherwise known as ‘identity.’ Instead, the problem is the assumption that such self-presence can be converted adequately into a form of presence for something else.”[54] The glaring issue here is that to say that our problem (which is Derrida’s), or identity, is not is to miscalculate the genesis and structures of literature, where form and presences for-the-other are the intrinsic measures of austerity whereby the tradition is cultivated and blossoms, from Athens to the desert, from the monastery to the university, to the thinning screens and down into the pocket. The methodology that took on this structure was born in the exilic desert, where each text is a disruptive spark emanating from the machinic-eternal return, as Sells, writing on Plotinus, makes clear: “For Plotinus, discursive reason reflects alienated consciousness; and this unfolds in the movement of nous to theoria. Plotinus moves from the noetic identity of subject and predicate, being and act into a fusion identity.”[55]

For Plotinus, the density of that which is known cannot compare to the negative theology of nothingness in light of the One as movement, intellect, and being. The mustards seeds of criticism are with us today, remain with the laity, and sprout from a similar place of bafflement: “How did she write that?” “What was going on in Proust’s mind?” But like Plotinian dialectic, even were we to construct a formulaic that seems to entail a ready-made kit for poetical and novelistic discourse, would remain amidst the shadows and specters of Plato and Marx. If one is to dive into a domain that is thus far untapped in terms of theoretical letters, the outcome should entail not an eclipsing of Plato or Marx; rather, a ferociously quenched thirst as concerns drinking from such water in a hitherto scorched exodus is our Plotinian modus operandi. Dialectical relations now acquire the very measure of taking the known to a level that seeks no longer to occasionally recall or acknowledge but to novelize its historical aura:[56] such is the Plotinian school of narratological being and non-being, or the novelistic undertaking of Dasein, which “attempts to think across the void of non-being and being and seeks to conceptualize the transition from the former to the latter without giving up and dismissing the problem.”[57] His project is to comprehend, in a word, how nothing begets something. Of course, even our most well-developed medical language will still mask that Aurelian reality of conception; but Plotinus is uninterested in that which is readily knowable, even if it pertains the generative principle and all its shrouded masks in time. His proto-existential prosody is thus parallel to the theorist’s: one knows, technically, how a text was written: it likely involved at least a hand, a grass blade, and a leaf. We also know what most likely transpired between one’s parents in order for one to come into concept-being. But this is all surface-level in light of the One, which invites a permanent intellectual rigor that is the chiseling down and refining concept-being and concept-time.

But for Cole, Plotinus’s identity and difference come second to hypostases.[58] Movement and stability – like Hegel’s Geist, or novelistic construction – indicates a development that is fathomed through conceptual history without ever being apprehended (outside of aesthetic-epiphanic insight, which is in turn methodological revelation). The moment of aesthetic intuition cannot be understood until the subject has reached a place of reflexive exile, temporarily removed from the preordained. This may well come about in a public setting – but it will not be understood by the general public. Moving from historical patterns, it latches onto the identity and difference of a Subject: suddenly Augustus, from the typological point of view, is split in half: Augustus is on the one hand a man well-known by generally unknown men. On the other, medieval theology renders him a typological casting in the divine, dramatic brutalities of Christological ebb and flow. For a moment no one is pointing fingers but rather existing. This aura of transcendence is the Plotinian intuition behind both the composition of a text and its continuation in the public sphere. Notice I did not say “second life”, or “after life”; rather, let us consider the text from a musical point of view: the words, just like a song with or without them itself, stays with us after it has been completed. The totality of the aesthetic object is no longer conceptually a dialectical matter of identity and difference, but has always been; for even before Plotinus, it was on the way to Plotinus. There may well be traces in the pre-Socratics, or the Sophists for the matter; but we cannot compare the Plotinian system to the Platonic or Aristotelian in the same way that we cannot compare the critic to the author or the musician to the listener. Pluralism discounts individuation, thereby cavalierly advocating an abstract utopianism; for we cannot say that the guitar-listener and the guitar-player approach the sound of a guitar the same way, as we cannot compare a marathon runner to one daydreaming of a treadmill.[59]

Plotinus’s pre-formulaic to the later Hegelian Absolute Concept is thus abstraction for-itself, in order to eclipse itself by rendering the reader a living system designed to successfully move narratological structure to the next level, engage the reader in an enlightenment for-himself without grander, delusive hopes, and thus invariably eclipse dialectical reason:

Thought brings unity to the dissimilar similars or, if one can bear that tautology, thought is the unity in which dissimilar similars are thought. What unifies all of these oppositions is the soul, but, as we see with Hegel’s absolute, these contradictions never disappear and remain in place as the mystic, the phenomenological observer, rangers from difference to difference.[60]

It is furthermore worth noting that this Heideggerian business of “dissimilar similarities” is taken from Meister Eckhart, who took it from Pseudo-Dionysius, who is for Cole next in the Plotinian line of negative theology and dialogical critique on the way to Theory. Again, I make note of this because one who is proclaiming that our issue begins with Heidegger is in a position far different from that of coming to a collective sense of excitement, anticipatory revelation, the living mythic form that cultural beginnings take on. Were it this way, we could entertain the idea of a Kantian prolegomena on the way to Heidegger who would in turn help us form Felski’s propaedeutic, hoist up three or four intellectual figures as politicized sentinels, and proceed. But the fact that the opposite is the case is all but Koselleckian,[61] which indeed Felski agrees upon.

We might note, for instance, that in Hegelian philosophy culmination is the byproduct of a progressive unfolding rather than situational incidentality, or cumulative rather than abrupt. But what is curious, as Halfwassen notes,[62] is not just the Plotinian parallels in Hegelian terminology, but the fact that Hegel perpetually turns to the ancients in laying the groundwork for his positive eschatology; and in this sense Hegel’s task is similar to ours.[63] This is a matter of at last recognizing the theoretical current’s inability to come to concrete terms with first some things, and then anything(s)-in-itself, as it was for Hegel’s contemporaries’ ill-fated entanglement with rationalistic and transcendental-critical discourse comingled with an inability to return to metaphysical apprehensions of totality and infinity.[64] He turned to Plotinus – as do we, in the spirit of Cole’s Hegel – because “Plotinus was the first to comprehend nous as the fulfillment and the encompassing totality of Being.”[65]

Plotinus as a brilliant prefiguration of Hegelian metaphysics; but also, suggests Halfwassen, an alternative. For both Hegel and Plotinus, for instance,

Thought is not the act of a subject that initially exists only for itself, which relates to an object that is separated from it and merely stands in opposition to it, so that it must remain inconceivable how it can relate to itself in this relation. Such a view drawn from the model of sense-perception remains fundamentally inappropriate for the self-relational Thought. Pure Thought does not originally orient itself towards a separate object, but rather towards the unity of noetic Being. This is the One-Being, which in its self-unfolding returns to itself and which in itself already is thinking self-relation. Thought, for that reason, recognizes itself as Thought in the grasping of the unity of Ideas – i.e. it recognizes itself as pure Thought of itself. Nous does not stand in opposition to the Ideas, then, as a subject which is different from them, but rather it is identical with the idea-filled Being as the all-unity meditating itself to itself.[66]

For Plotinus the Intellect is not the Absolute in that it is not the One which is beyond the limits of thought, as “Plotinus knows that the self-relation of Thought in ineluctable to all thinking; consequently even in thinking the Absolute it cannot be objectively circumvented”; they meet on the Intellect and part on the Absolute, their “ultimate horizon of unity discovered precisely in the self-relation of Thought.”[67]

The Well-Spun Broken Record: Theory of Purgatorial Holzwege

It could very well be argued that criticism is indeed temporarily hopeless. But I, and I believe Plotinus, would argue that there is a more damning factor than the poverty of spirit within academic culture itself; and it is that were academic texts of or on literary theory (or cultural theory for that matter) to vanish overnight, readers and beings more generally would suddenly find themselves nearer to the prospect of an open theoretical discourse. That what is needed now is an empirical wave of authentic literary-fictional genius to sweep out decades of stale, pseudo-political ideas; Plotinus did this in inviting anyone to his discourses treating them as equals (Benedict would mirror this in time, hence laying the groundwork for monastic, and thus academic culture). Nancy cites Diderot to this effect, “that can be read as the program of Kantianism: ‘When does one see the birth of critics and grammarians? Just after the century of divine productions and genius.’ The critical grammarian poses the question of the production of the oeuvre to come: he is attached to the (literary) work as if to something he himself has lost.”[68] Taken from this point of view, it is fitting that Harman moves from Kant forward,[69] to Heidegger as it were, although a shame that he does not utilize the most fitting Heideggerian term for his ideas in Holzwege, or, “ways that lead nowhere.”

I now turn to three interrelated excerpts from Graham Harman’s “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer: Object-Oriented Literary Criticism”: “It is my view that philosophy should not be the handmaiden of any other discipline, whether it be theology, leftist politics, or brain science… Often it is better to be surprised by what others do with our work, rather than command those adaptations like a bossy partygoer selecting the music in all other homes.[70] If philosophy is the handmaiden of literary theory, we must first unpack how this has come to pass, and this is rather simple: Homer begets Aristotle, rendering philosophy something of, as Gomez-Davila observed,[71] a literary genre. At the same time I actually agree with Harman, especially on the grounds of legitimate aesthetic theory succumbing to politics, the latter of which are at this point in time nothing more than incessant, technologically-sexualized propaganda that persons bear with them in their pockets around the clock.

But while the idea that brain surgeons have set a leash upon philosophy is more imagistic rhetoricity than anything else, it does strike one as odd that Harman is upset with theology’s intermingling with philosophy. Do not the two overlap par-excellence, historically and conceptually? Our two great poles of justification are that there is either meaning (God) or no meaning (no God). It is of course regularly recycled that there is plenty of meaning without God; but from the Plotinian point of view this is just untrue, and from the logical point of view to expect a philosophy without theology nearby is equally absurd. We are seeking not dissolvement or moving from theological geography to mere objects. What we as dialecticians are seeking is the heuristic structure of unbalanced balance, codified in linguistic symbology and rectified in the sound and vision of imaginative structure. Dostoevsky also holds court in this regard, between the twin pillars of anthropology and historiography: that without God, anything goes. This is true, but not true enough; for it would seem that with or without a Great Architect chaos reigns. The object of literal warring violence recedes for a moment in time; and therein psychological havoc begins; Plotinus, Hegel, literature, the theory of literature see this and also see right through into the dialogical and dialogical arena that is a lightness in the gravity of time, or text-being, being-texts, words made flesh.

It is therefore presciently symbolic that Harman sees philosophy as a handmaiden in these three realms and yet decides to plunge right in, like a child allergic to chroline en route to the pool. It is furthermore reminiscent of Deleuze and Guatarri in their “Postulates of Linguistics” suggesting doses rather than totality, this then reminiscent of Plotinian observations on intellectual proximity and illumination: “Knowledge is a kind of longing for the absent, and like the discovery made by a seeker. But that which is absolutely different remains itself by itself, and seeks nothing about itself; but that which explicates itself must be many.”[72] Doses of insight toward a reckoning of static literary studies thus, preliminarily, long for what is absent. Just what is absent will depend upon whomsoever one asks. But the nucleus of such collective replies would entail the desired, and it would be desired not because it is past but because it is good. Let us then consider the Thomistic aesthetic: that which being seen, pleases; such is the good. One seeks this. But an object or objects cannot however seek themselves and remain by themselves in the opposite of consciousness just as a seaman’s monkey island is well and good, but one does not care to draw attention to it when its ship’s floor has had holes shot out all through it.

This situational element of Harman’s argument furthermore suffers from his initial call for ideological segregation instantaneously rendered null by the author’s thereafter-admission of regularly collaborating with other genres, and then proceeding to do so in the article. By considering collaborative inquiry as philosophical handmaindenry, Harman loses sight of a prospective modus operandi on the minds of at least some literary-theoretical practitioners, which is the aforementioned concept of philosophy as a literary genre. His bringing the founder of phenomenology into the Kantian mix and alluding to the root of all theoretical activity but refraining from explaining just why seems to one a weak ambiguity that makes sense if we consider that dialectics is at the Plotinian heart of literary theory, and not objects; namely, again, the dialectic of identity and difference.

The very meditation of critique has life breathed into it at the sign of difference. This is the negation and totality of signification: that difference gives way to the aforementioned Jamesonian prospect of injecting a little more hermeneutic Gnosticism into Bloom’s vision of canonical misreading. The critic who hoists a strained flag while scoffing at the metaphysical advocate raises a point, but not the one that one thinks: rather than display an eclipse of ghosted binaries one is at last announcing to the world one’s absolute poverty of the structure of historical knowledge. One is photographing oneself at the voting booth with a toothy smile, later wondering why nothing ever changes, doubting everything except one’s method while the Marx of “Estranged Labour” is fuming in his casket. But the image of self-restraint and illusory barbarisms are more according to Proclus palate, and we will not join Cole in moving from Plotinus to Proclus. Let us therefore at least re-echo his prescient remarks in terms of comprehending Theory, in moving from Plotinus, “who effectively moves dialectic from rhetoric, logic, and dialogue to ontology, metaphysics, cosmology, and theology, to Proclus who systematizes dialectic of this precise sort and codifies the centrality of identity/difference to dialectic.”[73] We must render unto dogma’s what is dogma’s, theory’s unto theory’s: the prolegomena is also the postscript: “Estranged Labor” to Hegel, and backward to Plotinus. Let the scholars embark on such a critique of technological feudalism, political religion, manufactured subculture, and Numerical Beings in this light: here you will at last have the authentic way forward.

Forward into Authenticity and Theophany

Eric D. Perl takes a step forward in the dialectical history of literarily mystical narrative, moving – as does Cole, albeit briefly – to Pseudo-Dionysius. Taking Pseudo-Dionysius into account by means of a Hegelian reflection, Perl writes that “Self-consciousness epitomizes identity/difference because it recalls the very ancient problem of being and not-being to which Plotinus and those after him applied these logical terms to good effect: as Hegel puts it, self-consciousness is ‘aware that it at once is, and is not, another consciousness.’”[74] Whereas Plotinus lays a linguistic groundwork with identity and difference, Hegel engages opposed consciousnesses in either recognition of the other or in lifeless separation, or indifference (Gleichgultigkeit). This “vanishing magnitude” is in concrete correlation with the technological history of letters, and Benjaminian isolation: from the monastic blossoms of heaven and ashes of hell to feudalism, vice-versa, to unending religious slaughter and industrial acceleration, to the age of psychological genocide and Numerical Beings, the literary cognition that traverses through this world-spirit is relegated by author and not-author, artist and not-artist, composer and listener. But in this transformative repetition difference-itself is bound to linger, broken up by confrontation with the recurring Kantian prospect of worm-eaten dogma that is most recently, and persistently, identity in object-accumulation; or as Cole puts it, “the definition of identity in possession”,[75] and the prescient treasure trove of re-foundational prospects present within the corpus of Hegelian feudalism[76] that has its genesis and structure in Plotinian methodologies:

Plotinus understood what I think is a fundamental point for theory – namely, he knew that his dialectical expositions required a particular kind of prose that enables the very thought of figures as concepts, concepts as figures. In this respect, as we will see, Plotinus both anticipates Hegel’s own phenomenological style and, more importantly, supplies us with a fresh perspective on what makes anti-dialectical philosophies, such as we find in Deleuze and Guatarri, dialectical in an elementary way.[77]

If we return to reconsider now Harman’s Heideggerian musings we again find fractals of sub-argumentation that, like his thesis, would be less questionable had they a formal understanding of Hegel engrained therein. For Harman’s discrepancies entailing specific, recent aspects of a dialogical issues in fact go back much further than nineteenth or twentieth-century schools of thought, or even Kant for that matter. It is a historiographical process that has been taken to Hegel by Habib and Nuzzo, but most critically by Andrew Cole in his Birth of Theory, where Cole locates literary theory’s foundation or culmination with Hegel; but begins the process with Plotinus. Between Hegel and Plotinus there is a wealth of literary dialectical history; but for the time being I would like to question if the issues considered in our readings go back farther than is assumed, or laid out; and if so, that it is so seldom assumed because novelistic discourse did not become itself until the time of Cervantes that we believe the dialectical process of identity and difference that is literary theory began with what is called fiction. Consider what Plotinus has to say in the third century in conjunction with what Harman situates no later than Kant, perhaps substituting ‘existents’ for ‘tools’:

Dialectic works with things as they are – existents, as it were, its materials – following a method by which it possesses, together with the statement about them, the objects themselves. Dialectic knows error and sophism only indirectly: discerning another’s error to be alien to the truths within itself, thus recognizing what is advanced as counter to the canon of truth.[78]

We must therefore reconceptualize what Harman cannot manage, which is an authentic severance from the proclaimed vanity-of-vanity; and again, Plotinus works perfectly as our guide in this literarily-philosophical matter. Such a schematic is laid out in John Cooper’s Pursuits of Wisdom, which parallels between the critic’s task and Plotinus’s idea(s); how Plotinus moves from Plato; how Plotinus moves from the stoics; how, hence, his dialectical departure from either traditional School allows him to conceptualize the intellectual self at a distance that parallels that which is necessary in order to engage in theory; Schopenhauer example applied to the theorist: the realm of all talk and exchange as opposed to living and inventing – but further, the hostile complementariness that is akin warring factions that beget peace time, or the chaos of Forms inherent in a formulating work of art en route to the handed-over product of-itself; Plotinus does not linger on the differences with Aristotle and Socrates but transcends them:

Our life, Plotinus thinks, lies exclusively in activities of pure intellectual thinking that we, all of us, engage in all the time, most of us without even realizing it; our task is to become as self-conscious as possible of this activity, and to constantly focus our minds upon it (something we can, in principle, do even while, qua embodied animals, living an embodied life… That, for Plotinus, is the human good and human happiness. Philosophy’s task – one that only philosophy can perform – is to make us truly alive, and to keep us alive, in that self-consciously intellectual way.[79]

But naturally the literary artist sees through the totality of this veneer while sympathizing with its vitality. For even the closest contact to a revolutionary insight remains slated for historical demolition whilst in the limbo of signification, and otherwise composed in a torturous prose that persons do not have the time for (and not because they are unintelligent, but because they must survive). Harman and Felski fail to realize the linguistic subjectivity that the literary tradition makes its berated subject. This is why, I believe, Felski’s conclusion concerning emotional approaches to seminars is both deflating and inevitable: she ends where she begins, in the realm conceptual progression, “digging for buried truths.”[80] But – whose truths? For this concept, while fine in passing, entails ‘truths’ that even the author of a text does not know. If its illogical reality is part of a jest, it is precisely this sort of non-humor that ages unwell, narcotized by irony. Buried truth certainly concerns all of the non-critic, or non-scholar, but also critics and scholars; if one writes a book, and another says that “Author reveals in this symbol a prescient truth concerning the nature of technological transformation of the collective conscious”, but the author was in fact writing about a literal doorbell, i.e. “I recall writing that. It is a doorbell; the character was at the other character’s doorstep, and it seemed like the next logical move was to ring the like doorbell. That this doorbell is also a surveillance camera is so because I simply know people who have such a thing, and this character does too.” Felski explicates that the problem is one of perception. Plotinus suffered from this as well.[81] Her concerns, like Harman’s, are not ontological; they are institutional.[82]

We can laugh off the notion of a human soul; yet from even the Heideggerian point of view this glorification of raw materials is nothing more than the sputtering end of a productionist metaphysics. One does not need to elevate objects or matter in order to replenish a theory of letters; one rather needs to comprehend the recurring ambiguity of this process that is its hermeneutic and etymological blueprint. Thus while Plotinus broke away from the tradition of cyclical commentary that continues to this day, he was able to retain a dialectical focus on the linguistic and conceptual history of the soul of souls, the text-soul and concept-thinking soul, or becoming-soul of a soul’s innermost soul, so that one – student, reader, thinker, writer – might “center upon the great triad of basic Substances postulated by Platonist metaphysical theory (they are Platonism’s divine Trinity, rival to the Christian one): the One, Intellect, and Soul.”[83] Thus, in Deleuze, Benjamin, Latour, and Felski we see this everlasting reference to detective work; but never is the precise sort of detective undergone, which I believe is threefold: historiographical, theological, and philosophical. If the conceptual detective work is not rigorously engaged in either of these three foundational movements in the dialectic of novelistic discourse, the surface-level connotation inherent in the recycled analogy goes beyond obvious and into the realm of makeshift ambiguity. Concrete instances, such as Wittgenstein’s leisure reading and Jameson’s book on Raymond Chandler, offer an actually stimulating insight into the realm of dialogical detectiveness; but otherwise the analogy must in time appear little more delusive, e.g. persons convinced they are engaged in detective work when the outcome of said work is predetermined, and thus titular illogical in its proximity to a dissatisfying byproduct of the contemporaneous self, or Numerical Being’s, inability to probe Mystery rather than mystery, in the realm of Platonic Forms that is, ultimately, the text. It is therefore no coincidence that the theorists who consider themselves engaged in detective work are a far cry from the recaptured aura of Cole’s Birth of Theory, that line traced backward from Hegel to Plotinus. This neglect of Plotinian, or Platonic principles, is less a rejection of ancient philosophy than it is the nucleus f literary cognition. For let us recall that “Platonists claim that the natures themselves are not there to be learned about by any use, however extensive and effective, of our senses and memories and making projections from the past to the future, from data we might collect about things or properties of those natures.”[84]

The coming and going of that-which-constitutes converging with that-which-destroys is for Plotinus the object of conceptual history.[85] Linguistic subjectivity, again, is enhanced by survival instincts in order to diagnose pro and contra as pertains to flux and debris, or tier and reality. But to end at human investment is to end at the beginning and is the object of literary theory at its worst, or a perfect combination of predictability and a confederacy of charlatans. The world situation (in the Hegelian or Shakespearian sense world-spirit, or world-stage) must recognize itself as a perceptual totality rather than totality, a skylight far beneath the sky. For if there was nothing substantive to theory’s subject matter, what worked for Doblin or Proust would suffuse the supermarket fantasias of King and Koontz. There would be academic philosophy alone rather than academic philosophy beneath philosophy-itself (Magee #), and the school of theory would organically move from Derrida and Joyce to Actor Network Theory and the Twilight series. And it is within the very linguistic assumptions that prevent this from happening that Plotinus was himself concerned with, vindicating ontological illumination within having to worry what was coming next or whether his method was sufficient, or how the body (text) can possess a soul (literary cognition) that takes on bodily aspects (Bloomsday):

Plotinus’s ingenious solution is to suppose that in animating human beings (as well as other animals) Soul provides a special sort of “illumination” in their bodies (Plotinus constantly expresses his views here in heavily metaphorical language). Soul casts a certain “image” of itself (another metaphor) into the bodies of these living things. It is this image or illumination in the body which, taken together with the body, constitutes it as a “living being” (ζῷον). This image is animal consciousness (including perceptual and desiring and emotional consciousness). The living being itself, constituted by this consciousness in that body, possesses the powers of sensation, physical desire, and emotional reaction, all of which have both bodily and conscious components, and it does so because of the soul-image animating and “illuminating” it, and so, making it conscious. The point we need to notice is that Plotinus, by attributing the powers of sense perception and sensory memory, bodily desire, and emotion to this soul-image, can avoid having to think of Soul itself as directly providing or ground these activities, ones that are so evidently alien, and contrary, to its own nature. Soul itself, and therefore all particular souls, being purely spiritual, thinking, “intelligible” entities could not possibly be “affected” by anything bodily, as this soul-image is, when it activates all these powers. However, it is not difficult to conceive of an image of Soul, just because as an “image” it is darker and more obscure, and somewhat deformed, as something mingled in precisely such ways with the body that it animates. We can suppose (even if we do not fully understand it) that this image can make us conscious with these sorts of bodily consciousness.[86]

Perhaps a second key to understanding the poverty of theoretical criticism is expounded in another Plotinian note by Cooper, in that, “One can engage fully and successfully in those operations experimentation, theory construction, medical and atomic-physical research) without thinking or knowing anything about the natures of things (in the sense in which a nature is, on Platonist theory, something abstract and completely nonbodily).”[87] We see here that Latour and Felski’s uncoincidental notes on conspiracy theorists begin to take form in a new light. Latour is against conspiracy theorists not because of their methodology, but because it is the same method of inquiry as his. Felski remarks the same thing. Such is, in a word, the unspeakable crisis of our times: that we do not so much authentically lament historical tragedies but rather the fact that the subjugated remained so even in contemporaneous essence, and that we cannot admit that we are not against evil but rather that we cannot yet inflict it ourselves by willpower of digitality and euphemism alone.[88] The former slave loses his chains but must acquire a call to absolute mental enslavement, and in this poetical-linguistic regard Adorno was wrong: it is not inhuman to write poetry after death camps; no, what is inhuman is a culture whereby the word “Nazi” becomes so common it loses its value, hence its life, and thus is given the subterranean sphere to regroup. Likewise, collective linguistic disintegration reveals that its society’s plebeian chanters would in fact love nothing more than a regime of their own beliefs, becoming that which they claim to despise, and this adds fuel tothe unsung fire that is conservative distrust of such Orwellian groupthink. In half a century theoretical liberalism has culminated not in a joyous, Summer of the Love-of-the-soul, but its utopian freedom has actually stayed well put in that the etymology of utopia takes us to literally nothing.

Peripatetic Rocks

Such are the stakes today including when Felski or Harman the problem is neither the country, what is called literature, nor theory; but rather that neither would be willing to ever move beyond specifically set boundaries in their lamentations for the precise reason that purgatory is for Dante never rendered an infernal – or paradisal – turn. What is at stake in this purgatorial moment is not purposely getting in trouble or offending persons, as Auerbach’s poet of the secular world did not condemn persons to purgatory for the sake of shock-value; what is at stake is the actualization of destroying the sphere of intellectual stagnation in order to eclipse at the same time its opposite,  destruction,[89] but for the sake of a return to aesthetic-anarchical pilgrimage. For the limit of critique is the hermeneutic facticity of itself: that its adherents are too comfortable to shake things up (I find this absolutely pragmatic, as the end of this talk will make clear). That there is, in the end, nothing around the corner, despite the daily foreboding and promise of revolution on one hand and liberation on the other, neither of which arrive. We lift our eyes from Plotinus and Hegel and find Harman’s toolbox is charming but offers nothing beyond lukewarm of theories of a fictionality that is out of his league. He thus pales in comparison to his task at hand not by virtue of working in a sense akin to a hypothetical light-hearted ancestor of Heidegger and Kant, but by even bothering to announce he is working from this mutual shadow; Kant and Heidegger are too close to the present in their working in a post-Swiftian framework, and furthermore have in the last analysis nothing new to tell us about the Homeric tradition in which philosophy is conceived. Kant and Heidegger were not there for the earliest stages of theory and work in a way whereby literality is incidental; Kant’s Critique of Judgment is a great book, but fragments say nothing to us about our technological feudalism, manufactured subcultures, and the linguistic subjectivity of Numerical Being.[90] How, then, could a Plotinus possibly do so?

Having considered the article and text in a Plotinian light, let us conclude with the answer to this question, which simultaneously considers why either of the contemporary theories or theory we have weighed and found wanting: were either Harman’s article or Felski’s book to vanish tomorrow literary cognition would go on unchanged. This is not a harsh judgement on either writer, in whom I see traces of good ideas. But until they understand, like Cole, that identity and difference takes us backward as the only, invaluable way forward, nothing can possibly bear the brunt of spectacular technological assault we now experience around the clock. This is not linguistic trickery: the historiography of dialectical letters is single chance one has to maximize the impact of a redeemed studies of literature and the cognition of the literary work of art.

An important topic does not beget an important text; temporality does not indicate illumination but fragmentary channels. I do not, like the 1950s Chicago School Aristotelians, claim that we must go back to one author in order to proceed; rather, I say that Theory’s usual suspects are less than a fraction of philosophy-altogether. One must turn to Plotinus if one is going to comprehend the conceptual history of theoretical letters; and while I advocate staying there for a sufficient amount of time, it is for the greater sake of climbing the ladder of ascent to Hegel, in whom we can seriously begin to fathom the ontological depths of letters and their future. The rest is circular verbiage in so far as variations on the same themes are concerned, rather than an epistemology of the Concept; we are trapped in the Agambenian pre-god stage of mere language, or incidental action-names.[91] For “if we ask what we, the subjects of our consciousness – that is, the object of our self-consciousness – in fact are (what this thing is that is active in our being consciousness of ourselves being conscious of objects), Plotinus’s answer is that it is our intellect. Indeed, it is because of and from out intellect, through its “image”, that we have the rest of our consciousness, what he calls “lower” consciousness, at all.”[92] Lower indeed.

I near the end of this Plotinian wager with an analogy. In his Creation and Anarchy, Agamben theatrically and haughtily dismisses the Petrarchan moment as a cultural memory of midframe faith in aesthetic development that begets what shall in time become the Kantian realm,[93] disregarding its implosive conceptualization of time and imaginative space, heuristically transmitted into the poetics of Petrarchan simultaneity and temporality.[94] Agamben here is so far off the mark that one wonders if this is an egregious translational blunder; if the same writer with insights coming through on each preceding and descending page could in truth fly from historiographical erudition when it comes to Petrarch’s Augustinian moment and what it signals to forthcoming modes of insight, it is a testament to basketed eggs. One coming from the school of Dantean-poetical reflexology wonders if Agamben is flippant. Here, however, is the thing: were we to stick to the old method, I would hypothesize for some pages why Agamben is wrong, what it means to his argument, and perhaps reference an acclaimed article that establishes the Petrarchan moment and works out the kinks of indexical differentiation into something of a canonical scholarly note. But I have advocated in these pages on behalf of a new method that is so radical it is the stuff of kitchen table discourse: working through Andrew Cole’s thesis on the Hegelian foundations of literary theory and going right to the beginning, or to the ever-present origin. And thus in keeping with this spirit while concluding our talk on Plotinus with a contemporary critique of Agamben’s Petrarch, I present to the reader a philosopher off of the beaten track, in Jean Gebser, enclosed as an Appendix. Gebser is himself fond of Plotinus, and hitherto completely neglected by the school of literary theory. When we have compared Agamben’s abrupt dismissal with Gebser’s conceptual erudition, we will begin to better understand the Plotinian totality and infinity of the dialectical-dialogical One through historiography, en route to Hegel’s Geist.

For many moons persons have said, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But now it is broke, and one must fix it. It does not matter whether Harman’s Heideggerian toolbox suffices or if Felski has another rhetorical device about conspiracy theorists. What matters is that the object-oriented venture coincides with the worn-out conspiratorial jab: both of these epistemological networks necessitate a poverty of invention whose condemned foundation incubates within a manufactured subculture void of literary or philosophical invention. Like Ashbery’s cathedral, these are not ways forward but ideas that are slated for demolition. Either one must undergo an archaeology of the toolbox if one or the other is to comprehend legitimate technologies of critique. The text is desirable because it is identical with reading, and reading is loved because it is identity and difference within the rhizomatic sphere of mute perception, both microscopic and a little larger than the entire universe. The scholar possesses a thing that pleases when one is immersed in the totality of immersion and resurrection of the One; then we can understand, like Cole, why wisdom was born not in Rome but on her scorched, heinous, abhorred outskirts, by they who rejected everything and thereby gained all, whereby to know literature is to know oneself, as the above is below, and the past is what transpires next, the event on the way Dasein, that “in self-ignorance, we are ugly.”

There is also, in theory, the Plotinian specter of literarily leading by philosophical-dialogical example.

Appendix I

Concept of the Concept: Plotinian-Deleuzian Pedagogy for the Question of Digitality and Being-Death

I once saw a book in which it was maintained that

embryos look upon birth much as we do upon death

Could any death be as horrible as birth?[95]

Samuel Butler

            If the process of life has long enabled age to see with severe clarity the folly of younger generations, today one must look down from technological heights with excruciating perturbation. It appears that all of a sudden there is no time to concentrate, or that – rather – the means of our daily lives (the sexual technology Foucault noted) lend themselves to the annihilation of concentration, which is the lifeblood of aesthetic, intellectual fulfillment. This is the place of understanding one must come from – with or without mercy – in understanding today the younger generation’s automated willingness to breeze over psychanalysis and psychological schools more generally; for today there is a pill for everything, and whether or not one is on pills a good deal of that which was once deemed taboo is today either expected, accepted, or enforced. But I would like to make a twofold point here in the name of psychoanalytic understanding from an outsider’s point of view: first, that if we are ever going to understand the totality of psychoanalytic practice as an historical event in letters we must be willing to see its ecclesiastical aspects, both linguistic, confessional, complicatedly self-evident and liberating; second, this essence is found in the way that one can return to Lacan in a sense that his descendants seem to miss the mark on. Touching on the theme of the above paper, I would say that this is more than the-original-as-authentic; for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest may well be a better film than Kesey’s novel; and works on Kant may well be more desirable than the man’s books themselves. I mention this because the reader who is perhaps looking for a new method in proceeding who is reading Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition may well hit a speed bump when the author veers into Freud. But we must understand Freud less as a fraud[96] or an unread, dissolving household name, but as a key figure in the secular priestly tradition. We must understand psychoanalysis as a revolutionary expansion upon the ecclesiastical office, one that was willing to confront essences that perhaps Scripture never accounted for (One who truly knows despair shall know it by undergoing crises for which even the Bible itself has nothing to say). It is at this point that we can better understand the potentiality in a return to the earliest centuries of formulating-Christian thought, Gnostic texts, and of course, Plotinus; for Plotinus is a secular figure and philosophical master in whom we in addition to literary-dialectical traces find ourselves “the other side” of the Faith. For it is true, indeed, that the original is inimitable insofar as it is itself; but consider how seldom one reading Freud’s chapter in Interpretation where Hartmann is mentioned,[97] who never thought to go and retrieve that 800-page treatise directly fashioned in the improbable synthesis of Hegel and Schopenhauer (improbable when considering the polar opposite these philosophers underwent in life).[98] It is from this text I would therefore like to turn our attention before moving into a word on a Deleuzian pedagogy for the twenty-first century, as Hartmann that is forerunner to Freud, the nucleus of that ecclesiastical-linguistic movement named psychanalysis (that again we must understand in its proper religious-historical place prior to any other familiar or unfamiliar place):

Appendix II: Concept-Gnosticism, Alienation, Typology

            The history of dogmas teaches one not that dogmatic procession grows and degenerates like any other living thing, which is obvious, but also that with the fused advent of sexual technology and irreligious scientism dogma did not dissolve from the public specter but deeper into its subconscious than it could, literally, comprehend. Technology ensured an acceleration in alterative, linguistic ambiguity; but it also engrained dogmatic empiricism far deeper than Quine’s philosophical brackets[99] and straight onto whatever was left of the kitchen table. And I believe that we who should be working together shall remain at contrived odds so long as we fail to see precisely what Foucault did what he could to shine a glaring, contradictory light on: feigned freedom as ontic enslavement, or subjugation in the form of a ceaseless, meaningless propaganda (today in such a full swing it is almost impossible to imagine it getting worse). But what do I mean by ‘working together’? Surely this is not some utopian rallying cry – no, it is not; I have thus read critically into history from both ends of the ideological spectrum, and thus expect nothing higher than a whimsically prolonged diversion of catastrophe. Our first order of business is for now our last in that the most Foucauldian thing acolytes can do is this: stop imitating him and pick up where he left off. Retrieve thy library card, thou heathen, and pick up Pagels’s The Gnostic Paul; Kolish’s Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition; Plotinus; Eric Voegelin; Georges Sorel; Ficino. The list was originally much longer and filled with notes. But in essence we can abandon the past; though let it be known this indicates less enlightenment or progress than theoretical ruin, the breakdown of once-living bones. It was written somewhere, once, Know thyself. One cannot probe for whom reality is a glance-unto-absolute-judgment; such is infantility. One ought to have a page reading “Foucault’s Vol 4” in one hand, and Bryan Magee’s Hegel & the Hermetic Tradition in the other.

Appendix III: The Specter of Thomism

            If we may take the briefest of interrelated detours, I would like to make a note in correlation to conversations I have recently had, discussions heard and papers given, at recent conferences concerning aesthetics and literature. In a word, the sentiment is Thomistic: the nature of reason within a person inclines one to the good.[100] That is to say, that by elucidating one’s conceptual reason or general philosophy of reason we may fairly judge whether this person inclines to the good. Before we can object on grounds of subjectivity let us recall that a text must adhere to reasonable protocol even in the case of its insides being out of joint (in a similar vein a person seriously ill may put on a good outfit and go to work). To make my case, a person may well take a crack at Finnegans Wake in the same English course they take up Conrad. Criticism, then, is predicated on a radical good; it proclaims – correctly – at its best that society has got it wrong, and that there is more to the text than authorial tactics and aim. Published, a work is now a matter of public discourse, and these two parties as one proceed to work in aspects of the good, guided by methodologies of reason.

Now, it is unreason to pursue an unworking thing to a theoretically better end. One cannot ride a bicycle without wheels no matter the revered frame. This is Theory now; Aquinas nails liars to the wall; theoretical logic surmounts political (temporal) emotion.

Appendix IV

            In the above we had briefly considered Agamben, an author for whom there may well be a place as concerns an extended prolegomena for any future Plotinian study in theory. But for the time being I would like to include Jean Gebser’s remarks on Petrarch, and his Augustinian vision that I find so oddly lacking in Agamben’s otherwise richly dialogical text. Gebser, I believe, can here alongside point us in a twofold direction, one of content and context; for I agree not just with what he writes but how he writes it, which indicates a care for the contemplative self, or perceptive apparatus, that I find disrupted in the contemporary-temporal discourse of letters. Gebser writes [seminar turns to print-outs of Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin, 12-16.


[1] “Pseudo-Dionysius prescribes negation in order to make visible the contradictions that must than be thought through, and overcome in the contemplative ascent, only after which point language, words, and figuration fall away, and conceptualization takes over.” Birth of Theory, 44.

[2] Perl, 33. “To pass from appearance to what is appearing, from being to God, is not to pass from one thing to another thing. Rather, since God is not another thing but the enfolding of all things, to go from beings to God is to gather the whole diverse content of reality together, and in so doing, since being necessarily involves multiplicity and distinction, to pass beyond being.” See also Enneads 6.9.11.42-43, and Perl, 95.

[3] Perl, 40.

[4] Cole, 42-6.

[5] Note from Heidegger Hermeneutics of Facticity. See also the “dissimilar similarities”, a Heideggerian concept taken up from the medieval dialectical phenomenology of Meister Eckhart, and dually noted by Cole, 45.

[6] Perl, 52.

[7] Perl, 55, e.g. “The fall of the soul from intellectuality to sensuality is, as it were, played out in the particular evil deeds we perform as a result of sensual desire, fear, and other passions: ‘[T]he sin of the soul can refer to two things, either to the course of the descent or to doing evil when the soul has arrived here below’ (Enneads 4.8.5.17-18). Moral evil, then, consists for Plotinus not in matter but in the soul’s failure to be fully intellectual, a failure which is an ontological diminution of the soul itself.”

[8] Perl, 59.

[9] Perl, 71.

[10] Enneads v. 5.8.3

[11] Perl, 74.

[12] This is unpacked at some length in Clark Butler’s Hegel’s Logic: Between Dialectics and History (Northwestern Univ. Press, 1996), viz. 140-43.

[13] Cole, 39; Perl, 67.

[14] See Deepa Majumdar’s Plotinus on the Appearance of Time and the World of Sense: A Pantomime (Routledge, 2016), 45.

[15] Majumdar, 169, 201.

[16] Part of M.A.R. Habib’s argument against Cole, which I take up below.

[17] Here a reference to O’Brien’s three compilated Plotinian hypostates is invaluable: Soul, Intellect, and the One, whence “Here, with a vengeance, ontology reposes upon personal introspection, cosmology is the extrapolation of psychology.” 90-108.

[18] Nicholas Banner, Philosophic Silence and the ‘One’ in Plotinus (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2018), 212.

[19] Kierkegaard as quoted in Georges Bataille’s Visions of Excess (Univ. of Minnesota, 1985), 178.

[20] Lucien Febvre, The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century: The Religion of Rabelais (Harvard Univ. Press, 1982), 463.

[21] Five further sources had a hand in this reconsideration: Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin (Ohio Univ. Press, 1986); Deleuze’s Difference & Repetition (Columbia Univ. Press, 1995); Georges Sorel’s Reflections on Violence (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999); Reinhart Koselleck’s The Practice of Conceptual History (Stanford Univ. Press, 2002); Jean-Luc Nancy’s Discourse of the Syncope (Stanford Univ. Press, 2008).

[22] Harman: “The well-wrought broken hammer: object-oriented literary criticism.” New literary history 43, no. 2 (2012): 183-203; Felski: The Limits of Critique. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2015.

[23] It appears Walter Benjamin and I have independently come to a parallel linguistic conclusion. One task of this discussion is my wager that today the theoretical “Real” sans aura is simply intricate misidentification. As Eric Voegelin observed in his masterful “On Hegel—A Study in Sorcery” (The Study of Time, pp. 418-451, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 1972), at some point the Lacanian circus of Zizek and co. had to end; whether there was substance or not will be up to the excavators; but rather like Foucault on the ‘Summer of Love’, I believe I speak for many when I say I am ready – and equipped – for a new direction. Nonetheless, a brisk, compact read on Benjamin, aura, and the prospect of a twenty-first century theological theory is found in Michal Beth Dinkler’s Literary Theory and the New Testament (Yale Univ. Press, 2019), 85.

[24] Harman, 197.

[25] See Sorel’s “Letter to Daniel Halevy” in Reflections on Violence (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999), 3-35; this idea is unpacked a little below.

[26] “Its sheer difficulty accentuated its allure to a certain kind of critic, convinced, akin to Burke commenting on the sublime, that the obscure is inherently more affecting and awe-inspiring than the clear. Indeed, there was often a fannish dimension to theory – evidenced in a cult of exclusiveness and intense attachment to charismatic figures.” Felski, 27.

[27] Unity of Philosophical Experience, 156-158. My reading of Cole was stimulated by this unlikely place in Gilson, less who-said-what-first than a method of literary reflection that moves from canonical clouds of unknowing to particle showers.

[28] “Those who seem furthest from wrongdoing turn out to be deeply implicated in the creation of social suffering.” Felski, 90.

[29] The Heideggerian approach to existence-as-perspective – textually, symbolically, both – is ineffective because it is not Heidegger who brings this development into being but Nietzsche (Gadamer, The Beginning of Knowledge, 31); and therefore it thus less a matter of what Nietzsche leads into, when that angularly acute, vertical descent has already been exhausted, leaving ripe the ancient grounds of pyramidal exegesis (Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, 257) than what at the same time, novelistic discourse comprehends concerning “the horizon that one speaks of in the fusion of the horizons of interpretation is nothing that one ever reaches [directly in line with Plotinian thinking]… [that the] horizon of interpretation changes constantly, just as our visual horizon also varies with each step that we take” (Gadamer, The Beginning of Knowledge, 61). The idea of Heideggerian tools or objects, let alone “guerilla metaphysics”, is, first, a matter of faulty premises; but further, in the second analysis, let us cut to the chase: if the student or professor of literature is going to carve out a new direction in theory, there must be something of a call for a systematic training in Heidegger – not an idea or two molded into the linguistic subjectivity of an aggrieved proprietor, nor a minor text or two – but a call undertake Heidegger-qua-Heidegger before anyone even thinks of bringing such thought into the specter of novelistic discourse. Until then it shall appear as though ideas plucked out of the next purgatorial hat at random because this is what the matter boils down to when the non-philosopher seeks to dive into such extreme density, and equally when the philosopher makes the pallid mistake of kickstarting one’s technologies of critique from Kant forward without even so much as a Wolffian prolegomena to Homer. The direction, summarily, is predicated upon theoretical historiography in the philosophical development of what is called literary cognition. Anything less results in precisely what has transpired, is transpiring, and otherwise shall: an equatorial sphere, lukewarm, wrapped around the bursting, paralytic study of dialogical-hermeneutic facticity in neglect; temporality all the way ‘round.

[30] “[For] any being, to be is to be finite and unitary, and hence to be dependent on the unifying definition by which it is the one being that it is… Plotinus turns the One as the ground or source on which being depends, that by which all beings are beings.” Eric P. Perl, Theophany (SUNY Press, 200810), 10.

[31] Andrew Cole, The Birth of Theory (Princeton Univ. Press, 2014), 8.

[32] Plotinus differentiates between the participant and participated, whereby the “image” is rendered contradistinctive from archetype (Perl, 23); where by way of  “differentiated appearance of the cause (or text) …we may think of all things as the many different points on the circumference of a circle. If we imagine all the points moving toward the center, each along its own radius, the circle will become progressively smaller. When all the points meet at the center, the circle will ‘blink out’ altogether. That is the One: not anything, but the undifferentiated containment of things… What distinguishes each being from the others is also what distinguishes each being from the One.” Perl, 25.

[33] This work is not only foundational but ongoing, as in the case of W. Norris Clarke, S. J., viz., “At the root of all intellectual inquiry, including the metaphysical quest, is the radical dynamism of the human mind toward the fullness of being as true, what Bernard Lonergan calls ‘the unrestricted drive of the mind to know being, that is, all that there is to know about all that there is… Plotinus initiated a dramatic new turn in history, Platonic Ideas as well as Aristotelian forms: an utterly simple, infinite, concentrated fullness of perfection beyond all limitation even of intelligible form, from which flows out the whole universe by necessary emanation in successive descending levels, each constituted by a further limited participation in the perfection above it.” The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2015), 14-5, 156.

[34] Writing around the same time as Plotinus, I mention Iamblichus because he would be a most excellent figure in one looking to synchronically merge Roman Christianization into a reformulated vision of Theory. One might also in this regard trace a long clerical line right into the philosophical culmination of psychoanalysis. But for information on this other figure of late antiquity, see Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus (Williamsburg: Angelico Press, 2014).

[35] See Bernard Lonergan’s Insight (Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992), cf. “The many gods give place to the many philosophies. The intellectualism of a Plato and an Aristotle is opposed by the atomism of a Leucippus and Democritus. Time divides the Old, the Middle, and the New Academies. The Lyceum deserts the fifty-odd unmoved philosophers of Aristotelian cosmology to settle down to empirical research. Philosophy itself becomes practical in the primarily ethical concern of Cynic and Cyrenaic, of Epicurean and Stoic, and the brilliant speculation of a Plotinus ends in the more effective oddities of a Proclus and Iamblichus.” 704.

[36] Inherent within my argument is that Zizek and Edelman have failed to reach the Real. More than a matter of being non-Plotinian, such authors become language animals rather than philosophical visionaries in their misappropriation of a latter-day misappropriation of the Plotinian Intellectual Principle. The very strata of their theoretical structures must, by law, summon a sense of deflation rather than concrete epiphanic insight. This is not a polemic but an argument offered in the spirit of Plotinus: these authors’ misappropriation of the Real has terrible linguistic consequences, not least of which is an ambiguous density that is truly, in the last analysis, hollow.

[37] See O’Brien, 94-8.

[38] “The positive turns out to be a temporary way station en route to the negative, whose sovereignty rousingly reaffirmed… the halo dropped by the poet has been picked up by the critic”, Felski, 128-34.

[39] Sells, 32-33.

[40] Sells, 33.

[41] Cole, The Birth of Theory, 9.

[42] Cole, 15.

[43] Cole, 17.

[44] To this end Romano strikes me as much more sophisticated, if not tenable voice crying in the theoretical wilderness. See his At the Heart of Reason (Northwestern Univ. Press, 2015), 13.

[45] “An appearance of a real thing is not the real thing itself, nor is it another real thing, but neither is it nothing.” Perl, 20.

[46] Michael A. Sells, The Mystical Language of Unsaying (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994), 16-17.

[47] Sells, 21.

[48] Elmer O’Brien (ed.), The Essential Plotinus (Hackett, 1964), 122-3.

[49] O’Brien, 123.

[50] Cole, 24.

[51] Cole, 34.

[52] “In opposition to Aristotle, Plotinus understands matter, insofar as it is not form, as privation (2.4.16.3-5), the ontological deficiency of sensibles in relation to purely intelligible realities.” Perl, 54.

[53] Assmann, Aleida. “Memory, Individual.” The Oxford handbook of contextual political analysis 5 (2006): 210.

[54] Harman, 197.

[55] Sells, 23-25.

[56] Whereas Harman has conflated ‘allure’ with a genealogy of Benjaminesque aura (“In Husserl’s philosophy there is a further hybrid strife between sensual objects and their real qualities; it need not be discussed in this lecture, though I hold that this is the root of all theoretical activity in all domains… [I contend allure] is the key phenomenon of all the arts, literature included. Allure alludes to entities as they are, quite apart from any relations with or effects upon other entities in the world” (187). Husserlian allusions of allure may just bode unwell, then (and in the last analysis), as literature’s handmaiden. Allure is obvious is physicality in the realm of the senses; a theory of literature seeks surgical devices for metaphysical operations on readily available and seemingly impenetrable organs alike.

[57] Cole, 36.

[58] Cole, 39.

[59] Here a reference to O’Brien’s three compilated Plotinian hypostates is invaluable: Soul, Intellect, and the One, whence “Here, with a vengeance, ontology reposes upon personal introspection, cosmology is the extrapolation of psychology.” 90-108.

[60] Cole, 45.

[61] Felski obscurely references the text on 41. While Koselleckian conceptual history is synonymous with what we might call etymological archaeology, Felski does not realize the irony of her compressing such an enormous concept into a mere glance at etymology and how she therein intensified the very crisis she proclaims to probe: “Concealment and intensification are one and the same process.” Koselleck, Critique and Crisis (MIT Press, 1988), 127. Plotinus further illuminates the dire subjectivity in makeshift etymology: “etymologies are to be taken as anyone wishes… for even the light of the sun which it has in itself would perhaps escape our sense of sight if a more solid mass did not underlie it”. Enneads V (Loeb), 173-77.

[62] From Gersh (ed.): Plotinus’ Legacy: the Transformation of Platonism from the Renaissance to the Modern Era (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2020);Jens Halfwassen’s “Hegel’s Programmatic Recourse to the Ancient Philosophy of Intellect”, 217-229.

[63] Halfwassen, 217-220.

[64] Halfwassen, 218.

[65] Halfwassen, 219.

[66] Halfwassen, 224.

[67] Halfwassen, 227-8.

[68] Jean-Luc Nancy, The Discourse of the Syncope (Stanford Univ Press, 2008), 43.

[69] “The strange blindness of all those who have bound Kant to the pillory of literature lies in the fact that they have never taken into account the statements of Kant himself, who never ceased to complain of lacking literary talent. And it goes without saying that philosophers, for their part, have considered his declaration even less.” Nancy, 20.

[70] Harman, 183. No politic is good in that it is mortal and hence temporal and ulterior; but the most of odious of politics, despite its surface-level packaging, is that which is predicated upon the propaganda of moral superiority, as laid out by Nietzsche, e.g. “wherever the strength of a faith steps decisively into the foreground, we infer a certain weakness in its ability to demonstrate its truth, even the improbability of what it believes. We, too, do not deny that the belief “makes blessed,” but for that very reason we deny that the belief proves something—a strong belief which confers blessedness creates doubts about what it has faith in. It does not ground “truth.” It grounds a certain probability— delusion.” Genealogy of Morals (Oxford World Classics, 2008), 124, or 3.24. It is thus not that all apparent morals are feigned; but those explicitly so much fall even lower than an honest immorality.

[71] See Scholia to an Implicit Text (Colombia: Villegas Editores, 2013), I., 312. 

[72] Enneads V, 109.

[73] Cole, 49.

[74] Perl (Theophany, 54) is here citing Hegel’s Philosophy of History, 384. Unfortunately, the corona-virus has closed Walsh Library and I am unable to re-obtain Perl’s book through interlibrary-loan in order to revisit which edition and translation Perl is using. I have the Dover English translation, unabridged, and see similar albeit imprecise phraseology on its page 384. I have also combed other English translations available online but cannot find an edition with these exact words on any page 384. At the same time I have not removed this note altogether because the sentence excerpt is clearly in line with a Hegelian observation, and furthermore we may have Walsh Library up and running in time for me to re-receive the Perl text (This is the sole tidbit of information I do not have down in my voluminous notebooks, or approve to have misplaced).

[75] Cole, 81.

[76] Cole, 83.

[77] Cole, 155.

[78] Plotinus, Enneads [1] (Harvard: Loeb Classical Library, 1966), translated by A.H. Armstrong, 158-61.

[79] Cooper, 307.

[80] Felski, 33.

[81] But Plotinus had no time for such platitudes, which is to say that he understood the banality of irrelevant pondering. He goes further in equating the visible, or object-oriented, with a futility of mind; the Plotinian dialectical procedure is as severed from empirical dogmatism as is Wittgenstein when he remarks that “The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man” (Tractatus 6.43). On his teaching method and life, see Pierre Hadot’s Plotinus, or the Simplicity of Vision (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1993), cf. 1-34, viz., “turning away from sensible things, philosophy is essentially a conversion, a violent uprooting from the alienation of unconsciousness…” the Plotinian inward turn mirrors that of the literary artist engaged in novelistic discourse several centuries down the line. See also Dominic J. O’Meara, Plotinus: An Introduction to the Enneads (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005), 1-11.

[82] “Our selves become bare centers of intellectual activity, through which we are, in fact, constantly in touch with the higher reality of true being” (Cooper, 318) – as is the text’s critique.

[83] Cooper, 319.

[84] Cooper, 319.

[85] Cooper, 325-6.

[86] Cooper, 332.

[87] Cooper, 338.

[88] This idea is less radical than it sounds; and while it came to me in my studies of contemporary propaganda, my research led me to Georges Sorel’s “Letter to Daniel Halevy” as well as Pascal’s 296th fragment in Pensées.

[89] Again one recalls the Deleuzian admonition of doses rather than totality; Malcolm Lowry’s voyage that never ends; Foucault’s demolition of moral propaganda; Schopenhauer’s laceration of the ‘Truth’ in order to apprehend the process in-itself.

[90] The history of this spirit is the history of religion, evidenced in The Fiery Brook: Selected Writings of Ludwig Feuerbach, “The moment it becomes the objection of narration, it ceases to be a miracle. It is therefore not without reason that people say that time betrays all secrets. Consequently, if a historical phenomenon were actually the manifestation or incarnation of the deity, then it must extinguish – and this alone would be its proof – all the lights of history, particularly church lights, as the sun puts out the stars and the day nocturnal lights, ” (Brooklyn: Verso, 57-58).

[91] The Sacrament of Language (Stanford Univ. Press, 2011), “the names of the gods are initially names of actions or brief events, Sondergotter who, through a long historico-linguistic process lost their relationship with the living vocabulary and, being more and more unintelligible, were transformed into proper names.” 45.

[92] Cooper, 339.

[93] I’ve included the Jean Gebser text in an appendix.

[94] Makkreel, Rudolf A. The Imagination and Interpretation of Kant: The Hermeneutic Import of the Critique of Judgment (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990), 23-9. In a similar way, Kant’s synthesis of imagination employs an order recognition, reproduction, association, and apprehension. These aesthetic things, in the realm of teleological judgment, strike me as a far more reasonable place for the theorist to dive in rather than predetermining whether the line of focus is visible or invisible, under the bracket of one fleeting critical genre or another.

[95] The Way of All Flesh (Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1997), 432-33.

[96] See Frederick C. Crews’s Freud: The Making of an Illusion (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017).

[97] “The idealists are far nearer the truth when they allege that [unprejudiced introspection, cultivated taste] is something lying beyond consciousness, antecedent to the conscious aesthetic judgment, consequently something a priori in respect of the latter…As our ear in the deepest tones does not hear a tone, but a droning noise, in the highest is aware no longer of a tone, but an acute pain, as our eye does not distinguish with a very feeble illumination, and is dazzled and destroyed by a brightness all too bright, without the adaptation of these organs being thereby defective, the purposive reflexes can also be looked for only within certain finite limits of the scale of stimulation, but these limits will themselves again by teleologically determined.” (Philosophy of the Unconscious, Routledge, 2010), i.270; iii.232.   Joachim Fischer’s “Nicolai Hartmann: A Crucial Figure in German Philosophical Anthropology—Without Belonging to the Paradigm.” The Philosophy of Nicolai Hartmann (2011): 85, 89-91.

[98] See Cartwright’s Historical dictionary of Schopenhauer’s philosophy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 10.

[99] See Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, Can Theories be Refuted?, 41-64. Springer, Dordrecht, 1976.

[100] Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Law (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 1996), 60.

On the Narratology of Concept-Being, Lecture Six: Oration on the Dignity of Ratiocination

A Discussion on Caroline Walker Bynum’s “Material Continuity, Personal Survival, and the Resurrection of the Body: A Scholastic Discussion in its Medieval and Modern Contexts”

This need for violence conflicts with civilization, that is, with the gradual refining of society and its laws, and the progress of democracy and human rights, all seen as endangering the survival of the social structure, as a destructive and undifferentiated demagogy that seeks to revoke humankind’s dependence on the very historical mediations that have enabled it to exist.

Giuseppe Fornari, Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God, Vol. 1: The Great Mediations of the Classical World

In any case the old sentence of Macrobius’ Saturnalia – non possum scribere in eum qui potest proscribere [‘it is not possible to write against one who has the power to proscribe’] – is valid in all times of political concentration of power and for every publicist.

Carl Schmitt, Ex Captivitate Salus

Before we begin the final stages of this our reconsideration of what philosophical thought can or cannot do well as concerns contemporary concept-being, and the study of the narratives, or narratology, of how technological nihilism came to be what it is today, and what the ontological disclosure that seems to accompany aspects of the [authorial] dialectics of the concrete [Kosik’s note that ideology is equivalent to a “false totalization”, among others], I thought we would simply review an article. For the article in question tells us a good deal about the forthcoming narrative styles and moments up ahead in Plotinus, Dante, and maybe John Milton, maybe Melville[1] again, now that I have nothing more to say about him and just kind of like him as a person, or maybe even Bede. Why has theory hypothesized it may have run its course when it has never taken the step from Nietzsche back to Kant? Why, further, is the historiographical range of philosophical thinking in literary practice yet to approach Kant with the same sort of systematic rigor given to exhausted figures in the field such as Marx and Derrida? Today, my friends, I argue such is rather an appearance rather than any sort of hermeneutic facticity in that it is because literary scholars have not tried, and that they have not tried because they have no legitimate starting ground, or purpose, from which to construct a system. But the truth is that the foundation is in fact the very same starting place, compositionally speaking,[2] as Kantian aesthetics, in §10 of the third Critique.[3]

Phenomenology of Controversy, Phenomenology of Taboo

What is controversy? What is taboo? Strictly speaking, the recognition of things that exist that must be claimed to not exist despite everybody knowing that they exist. Hence the annual primitive chaos when a specific type of death transpires, but absolute silence over hourly thousands of deaths that transpire per annum that correlate to the very same people proclaiming that their mission (necessarily cloudy; it does not actually exist; it is Girardian animality, and was explicated by Plato re: ‘justice’ some time ago: hence one of the buried reasons for hatred of the classics) is to end the unlawful killings of certain people. But the whole vision disintegrates in about four lines under even an elementary Socratic investigation. Clearly, then, what is chanted – this is not the case; for whenever the overwhelming majority of mob-subjects die – and are not venerated by our new hagiographers, the corporate (fascist) media – there is silence. In another case, one hears that there is controversy that one of these said hagiographers notes that the State of Israel is less fixed in biblical values than it is essentially predicated on the Laws of Hitler; “Israel” is merely what Hitler thought, in ideology and structure, best for Europe.

Is reality itself controversial?  What does this say about reality? Truly, the answer is in the ontological disclosure of poetics that says, “That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be.”

The nauseating irony of this reality is thus transported back into the lap of the observer of the obvious:

One is reminded of C.S. Lewis: the doors of Hell truly are locked from the inside. It took me four years to understand the magnitude of this argument; and yet the shame of my delayed comprehension is nothing in comparison to the conceptual freedom I am gifted in coming to see the reality of the allegorical

Thus the need for a phenomenological examination of fascist narrativity is imperative; perhaps this is precisely the reason that anyone opposes fascism is branded as a backwards hick: because a handful of persons – perhaps even one – committed to a phenomenological deconstruction of the narratology of concept-being in crafters – not makers, but close; this is less a matter of digitality than it is Christological and anthropological – would at last pick up Heidegger’s hammer and go to work on the last nail in the coffin that is system of media objects.

These are the issues of our day, but keep in mind these are all more or less – visible or invisible – the thread, or golden thread – as I referred to the tradition of the house of letters in my book on Thomas Aquinas, aesthetic theory, and the possibility of a poetical renaissance – but they are also the issues of the masters. It is, I say again, a matter of ontological disclosure. One who doubts me is instructed to spend an afternoon with Hesiod and then go out and listen to the things persons are saying both publicly and privately; so long as one is pathologically consumed by the visible amplified by the equally pathological impossibility that oneself could ever have anything to do with one’s gravest problems, the people never even stop to consider banding together and going after the slavedrivers of our day, the invisible oligarchs. Really, this is all that our manufactured pathologies boil down to: throwing away attention given to reality and mental slavery and throwing the ball back into the ones who would dare look behind the curtain; such is the poet’s task, and also should the scholar of poetics: the implosion, rather than the veneration, of the narratology of concept-being that has thoroughly rendered a great part of the civilization a league of catatonic sleepwalkers.

So then how can the resurrection of the body, in Dante’s age, help us with any of this? In the most basic sense, that one is perhaps tempted to laugh the idea out of the room; and yet one’s entire reality was constructed around the conviction that one did in fact rise from the dead. And that this would in some way or another be the case for good and faithful servants. If one can get closer to understand how an apex of poetics understood the various ways of dissecting and restructuring the literary cognition of resurrection (more specifically, a literal Resurrection of the Word)… [&c.]

[To begin, we read in Bynum that “to twentieth-century non-Christians and Christians alike, no tenet of Christianity has seemed more improbable-indeed incredible-than the doctrine of the resurrection of the body” (51). That despite our modern inclination to perhaps allegorize or at least de-literalize the matter, “from Tertullian to the seventeenth- century divines asserted that God will reassemble the decayed and fragmented corpses of human beings at the end of time and grant to them eternal life and incorruptibility” (51-2). At the same time, in certain ways eschatology sat uncomfortably among other tenets of scholastic theology, although the doctrine of Resurrection was nonetheless never abandoned. Both Albert the Great and Giles of Rome wrote treatises about it. Peter of Lombard’s theories relay aspects of Augustine’s City of God, Gregory, Julian of Toledo, Jerome, Hugh of St. Victor, among others. Peter chose to consider final things in a way which gives pride of place to questions of the material reassemblage or reconstitution of the body (54). Here are some of Peter’s concerns: He chose to consider final things in a way which gives pride of place to questions of the material reassemblage or reconstitution of the body. In distinction 44, he asks: What age, height, and sex will we have in the resurrected body? Will all matter which has passed through the body at any point be resurrected? Must bits of matter return to the particular members (e.g., fingernails or hair) where they once resided? Will the bodies of the damned as well as the saved rise with their defects repaired? Are aborted fetuses resurrected? How can the bodies of the damned burn without being consumed? Will demons (although incorporeal) suffer from corporeal fire in hell? Distinction 45, after considering where souls reside between death and resurrection and asserting (without explaining) that the blessed will experience an increase of joy in bodily resurrection, turns to lengthy consideration of the usefulness of prayers for the dead. Distinctions 46 and 47 explore in detail God’s justice, especially the punishment of the damned. Distinctions 48 and 49 discuss specific questions concerning what we might call the topography and demography of blessedness: Where exactly will Christ descend as judge?

[But theologians were also curious about whether or not food digested ascended with one to the pearly gates; they also asked whether we will smell sweet odors or touch other bodies in heaven. Will the dead eat or taste? This carnality seems to contradict the idea of eternal life in the spirit; but theologians were also vexed by the resurrected Christ in Luke 24:42-43, who’d eaten boiled fish and honeycomb with his disciples.

[Then there was, in the shadow of the specter of Thomism, the question of cannibalism. Eaten human remains will be resurrected in the person to whom they first belonged; the missing matter will be made up in the second person from the nonhuman stuff he or she has eaten. But what (hypothesized Aquinas) about the case of a man who ate only human embryos who generated a child who ate only human embryos? If eaten matter rises in the one who possessed it first, this child will not rise at all. All its matter will rise elsewhere: either in the embryos its father ate (from which its core of human nature, passed on in the semen, was formed) or in the embryos it ate. Although the cannibal- ism question had been considered seriously at least since Tertullian (d. ca. 220), the issue did not remain the same. To the early fathers such questions were challenges raised by the enemies of Christianity, against whom one asserted, in answer, the absolute power of God to supplement missing matter in any way he chose. Aquinas, in contrast, insisted on tracking the bits of matter as far as possible through the processes of digestion, assimilation, and reproduction before resorting (as he also had finally to do) to divine power to make up the difference.

[Much of the debate about the resurrection of the body and about the relation of body and soul revolved not around a soul/body contrast but around the issue of bodily continuity. Scholastic theologians worried not about whether body was crucial to human nature but about how part related to whole-that is, how bits could and would be reintegrated after scattering and decay. The crucial question to which discussion of the resurrected body returned again and again was not “Is body necessary to personhood?” Medieval theologians were so certain it was they sometimes argued that resurrection was “natural.” Peter of Capua suggested, for example, that it was a consequence not of divine grace but of the structure of human nature that body returned to soul after the Last Judgment. The crucial theological question was rather, What accounts for the identity of earthly and risen body? What of “me” must rise in order for the risen body to be “me”? Only by considering the specific examples debated by schoolmen can we see the extent to which, between 1100 and 1320, they were really debating how far material continuity is necessary for identity. The issue of bodily continuity (of how identity lasts through corruption and reassemblage) was manifested as an issue not merely in the bizarre limiting cases considered by scholastic theologians but also in pious practice: in the cult of saints and relics, in changes in legal, medical, and burial procedures in exactly this period, in the kinds of miracle stories that were popular with preachers and audiences – a connection between actual church practice and the debates of ivory-tower intellectuals, and this connection is easiest to find not in the general philosophical issues such scholars considered but in the strangest of their specific examples.

[In this ecclesial and more generally secular disputation, for instance, Aquinas’s theory of the human being as a hylomorphic (form/matter) union of soul and body is thus a victory over dualism. Outright condemnation of Aquinas’s ideas in the 1270s and 1280s are seen in this interpretation to stem from suspicion that, exactly in their close union of soul and body, such ideas might threaten the immortality of the soul and lend support to the despised teaching we have discussed in seminar, Averroism.

[Bynum notes that 12th, 13th, and 14th century scholars were more on board with another writer we have read, in poet Bernard Sylvestris, who expressed a conception of matter as pregnant, yearning stuff, filled with potential. “Matter,” he wrote, “the oldest thing [in creation], wishes to be born again and in this new beginning to be encompassed in forms.”

[Expressing a similar notion that body is necessary both for person- hood and for eternal bliss, Bonaventure wrote, in a sermon on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary: “Her happiness would not be complete unless she [Mary] were there personally [i.e., bodily assumed into heaven]. The person is not the soul; it is a composite. Thus it is established that she must be there as a composite, that is, of soul and body. Otherwise she would not be there [in heaven] in perfect joy; for (as Augustine says) the minds of the saints [before their resurrections] are hindered, because of their natural inclination for their bodies, from being totally borne into God.”

Richard of Middleton, like Bonaventure, actually saw the soul’s yearning for the body as a motive for the saints in heaven. The blessed around the throne of God pray all the harder for us sinners, he asserted, because these blessed will receive again their own deeply desired flesh only when the number of the elect is filled up and the Judgment comes.

[But even those who departed from theories of material continuity were uncomfortable with, and inconsistent in, their departure. The philosophically elegant new identity theory implied by Thomas and Giles of Rome and finally articulated by Peter of Auvergne, John of Paris -a theory that obviated any need to consider material continuity-never caught on. Not only were certain of its consequences explicitly condemned; it was not fully used by its creators, who continued to speak of the resurrected body as reassembled by God from its own tiny bits of dust scattered throughout the universe. This last point needs explanation in a little more detail. In the course of patristic discussion, theologians had come to see identity as the heart of resurrection. As John of Damascus said (and scholastic theologians quoted him repeatedly): it is not resurrection unless the same human being rises again.58 But what does it mean for a person to be “the same”? In the twelfth century, some felt that only the continuation of exactly the same matter qualified as sameness. Indeed some thinkers held that nutrition and growth were in a natural sense impossible because food could never change substance and become flesh. Hence to Hugh of St. Victor, for example, any growth was a miracle: the growth of Eve from a rib of Adam or of a child from the seed of its father was likened to the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

[By the early thirteenth century most thinkers held that each person possessed a caro radicalis (a core of flesh) formed both from the matter passed on by parent or parents to child and from the matter that comes from food. It was this caro radicalis that God reassembled after the Last Judgment. Thus, as William of Auxerre argued in the early thirteenth century, summing up previous teaching, there must be material identity for numerical identity: the ashes of Paul must rise as the body of Paul. If matter is somehow lacking, the power of God must make up the deficit by miracle. This insistence on material continuity raised, as I explained above, a host of problems. If, for example, all our matter comes back (and, on this point, theologians found Luke 21:18-“Not a hair of your head shall perish”-very troubling), will not the fingernails of those who died adult be too long in heaven? And, on the other hand, where will the matter come from for those who died in the womb? To these problems, the theory of form as identity, adumbrated by Aquinas and articulated by John of Paris and Durandus, was an elegant solution. Since only substances exist, matter does not exist apart from form: prime matter is potency. When the human being dies, therefore, one cannot say that its body or its matter waits to be reassembled, for its body or matter does not exist at all. When the human being is resurrected, the body that is matter to its form (which is also its form of bodiliness because it is its only form) will by definition be its body. The cadaver that exists after we die, like the body that exists before, is second matter-formed matter but the cadaver is informed not by the form of the soul but by the form of the corpse. Thus, says Durandus, we may not say that God can make the body of Peter out of the body of Paul, because this is nonsense; if it is the body of Paul it is the body of Paul. But God can make the body of Peter out of dust that was once the body of Paul. And he need take no more or less dust than necessary to make a perfect human body. Indeed in the discussion of eaten embryos, which would not come up if identity were only formal, Aquinas not only made material continuity the principle of identity, he also tipped the scales toward matter in a second way, violating the Aristotelian theory (which he elsewhere adopted) that the father provides form, the mother matter, in conception.

[Controversy erupted in the 1270s over the implication that, if the cadaver is not the body, then Christ’s body did not lie in the tomb for the three days between crucifixion and resurrection. Not all the events in the course of the debate are clear; but the record shows that the argument that a dead body is just a body equivocally (i.e., that the word “body” in the two phrases “dead body” and “living body” is merely a homonym) was condemned at Oxford in 1277. The doctrine of the unicity of form was also condemned in England in March 1277. We must not make too much of the condemnations. Some were later revoked. What is informative for our purposes is the context of the discussion. Theologians themselves related abstruse considerations of the nature of body and person to such practical matters as burial customs and the veneration of saints. Since the early days of the twelfth century, schoolmen had seen that the status of Christ’s body in the tomb had implications for the cult of the dead. Not merely a mnemonic device, the body in the tomb is the body that will be joined to the saint in heaven Thus in the late thirteenth century, when the new categories of Aristotelian hylomorphism seemed to make material continuity irrelevant, theorists nonetheless discussed survival and resurrection as if identity of matter-or, to put it another way, univocality of “body”- were necessary.

BODILY PARTITION AND BODILY INCORRUPTION IN MEDIEVAL CULTURE

[Whether or not fragmentation or diminution is characterized as significant (or even in fact as occurring) depends not on what happens to the body physically but on the moral standing of the person to whom the bodily events pertain. Indeed the fact of bodily division is often denied by exactly the account that chronicles it. The words attributed to the martyr James the Dismembered, as he loses his toes, are typical: “Go, third toe, to thy companions, and as the grain of wheat bears much fruit, so shalt thou rest with thy fellows unto the last day…. Be comforted, little toe, because great and small shall have the same resurrection. A hair of the head shall not perish, and how much less shalt thou, the least of all, be separated from thy fellows?””‘ The message, with its explicit echoes of Luke 21:18 and 1 Cor. 15:42-44, is clear.” Dismemberment is horrible, to be sure; and even more horrifying is rottenness or decay. But in the end none of this is horrible at all. Beheaded and mutilated saints are “whole” and “unharmed.” Severed toes are the seeds from which glorified bodies will spring. God’s promise is that division shall finally be overcome, that ultimately there is no scattering.” As one of the more conservative theologians might have said: material continuity is identity; body is univocal; the whole will rise, and every part is in a sense the whole.

[Thus the opinions of twelfth- and thirteenth-century schoolmen and of late twentieth- century philosophers and medical sociologists have more in common than simply their respective oddity. [In their debates about fetuses and fingernails as in their popular preaching and legends, medieval people expressed the understanding that body is essential to person and material continuity to body. A significant group among modern intellectuals does not disagree. It is clear both that questions of survival and identity are not, even today, solved, and that they can be solved only through the sort of specific body puzzles medieval theologians delighted to raise.

[Bernard of Clairvaux spoke thus of the joys of bodily resurrection:

[“Do not be surprised if the glorified body seems to give the spirit something, for it was a real help when man was sick and mortal. How true that text is which says that all things turn to the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28). The sick, dead, and resurrected body is a help to the soul who loves God; the first for the fruits of penance, the second for repose, and the third for consummation. Truly the soul does not want to be perfected, without that from whose good services it feels it has benefited … in every way…. Listen to the bridegroom in the Canticle inviting us to this triple progress: “Eat, friends, and drink; be inebriated, dearest ones.” He calls to those working in the body to eat; he invites those who have set aside their bodies to drink; and he impels those who have resumed their bodies to inebriate themselves, calling them his dearest ones, as if they were filled with charity. … It is right to call them dearest who are drunk with love.”]

*

Yes, I know what you are all thinking: That before we finish for the day we need to talk for at least seven minutes about Bede, author of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People; for anyone even hypothesizing a lukewarm interest in this our language whilst neglecting Bede … is [a very unfortunate person]. Thus I have translated a little note, query, I wrote in Latin into English for you all:

[Ad-hoc postscript]

“The Holy Seed[i]”: On Bede’s Ezra-Nehemiah

Bede was the greatest biblical scholar of his age, whose singular historical authority was inestimably enhanced by the Wearmouth-Jarrow library. This library contained patristic texts, Latin and Greek biblical manuscripts, and allowed Bede to become even more than the exegete and historian we know him as today: preacher, educator, poet, linguist, geographer and hagiographer[ii]. As such, his singular corpus and historical texts are illumined by myriad layers of erudition, of which On Ezra-Nehemiah plays a special role. While Bede claims he is following in the Fathers’ footsteps with his Old Testament commentary, he does so whilst working with biblical texts previously untouched by all prior commentators (E-N, Proverbs, Tobit, Acts and the seven Epistles)[iii].

E-N is dedicated to Acca, bishop of Hexham, Bede’s patron[iv]. It is his fifth longest Old Testament commentary (Innovation 143). While Bede wrote for his monastic brothers, he must have sought a wider readership; but in approaching E-N we must keep in mind that Bede left no dates on his manuscripts, uninterested in this aspect of publication. Nonetheless, recent scholarship approximates the date of E-N at 715 A.D. or later in life, post-725[v].

Bede broke ground in both writing on E-N and in his method of narratology. Some of his allegory is straightforward, as evinced elsewhere[vi] in his Old Testament writings. Bede had also looser, less autobiographical allegory-interpretation, as in the seven lights of the candelabrum (Christ)[vii] and even Sumerian preservations[viii].

Ezra’s title of pontifex is a deliberate correctional message to the priests (Ezra 6:18-22; Bede 101-8). He sees the story of Israel as the story of Christ here[ix] as elsewhere[x] He was virtually alone in his employment of Alexandrian hermeneutical method, constructed less by exclusive devotion to the Patristic and Latin Fathers than the vast aforementioned array his Wearmouth-Jarrow Library offered (Innovation 133). Like Paul, Bede urges his readers to see the symbolism of the Jews (Innovation 133-4); their failure to receive Christ is less complicatedly strained than it is pressing allegory. He sees his own people in the Jews of Ezra and Nehemiah; we find one of several examples in Bede’s analogous reading of Nehemiah 5:1-4, wherein the Jews impose particularly cruel taxation. This for Bede anticipates episcopal greed and simony (Bede 139); his interpretation of Ezra transforms Bede into a reformer of his people (Innovation 138-44).

            Themes of exile and repatriation, destruction and reconstruction, loss and recovery abound; and for Bede, historical chronology manifests into an ever-present origin. All of these movements pertain to the sinner who has lost the Faith, the Church, and who may thus learn from the prophets what must be done in order to redeem oneself; the symbolic safety of this ever-present necessity of salvation is found in both the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the temple (Innovation 151). The temple’s dedication, then, is miraculously available through Christ and His sacraments, making the peoples’ corruption in Bedean times all the more reprehensible.

Bede stresses that teachers must thus teach through word and act; they must preach exemplary texts and be themselves examples. Parallels again unfold through defrocked clergymen in Bede’s time, banned on part of their own incontrovertible sins (Innovation 155). Such is made clear regarding Ezra 6:18: “The order of devotion required that, after the building and dedication of the Lord’s house, priests and Levites be straight away ordained to serve in it: for there would be no point in having erected a splendid building if there were no priests inside to serve God. This should be impressed as often as possible on those who, though founding monasteries with splendid workmanship, in no way appoint teachers in them to exhort the people to God’s work but rather those who will serve their own pleasures and desires there” (Bede 102).

            Despite his devotion to the Fathers, Bede differed from his clerical predecessors in that he imitated their revolutionary being in addition to the work[xi]. He often spoke of walking in their shadows, but through his Old Testament narratives stood at last beside them, absorbing both the work and the life, and became Venerable. His narratology enabled him to move in his own direction (Innovation 168), and thus Bede moved from the shadows of literary time and narrative to its canon.

Thus, one could condense Bede’s historical method in E-N as such: He sees in Ezra and Nehemiah texts laden with direct correlations to the crises and solutions for his ecclesiastical world and actively draws their world into his, and vice-versa; his allegorical narrative  simultaneously pioneered and concretized his original exegetical historiography.  

*

Bibliography

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. New York: Penguin Random House, 2015.

Boettner, Lorraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and        Reformed Publishing Company, 1991.

Budick, Sanford. Kant and Milton. Harvard Univ. Press, 2010.

Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful. London: Routledge Classics, 2008.

Bede. On Ezra and Nehemiah. Liverpool University Press, 2006.

Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Chaouli, Michel. Thinking with Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Harvard Univ. Press, 2019.

Cole, Andrew. The Birth of Theory. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2014.

Crowley, Sharon. “Pathetic Proofs” in Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. Boston:      Allyn & Bacon, 1999.

DeGregorio, Scott (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Bede. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

—. Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2006.

Felski, Rita. The Limits of Critique. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2015.

Gilson, Etienne. The Unity of Philosophical Experience. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999.

Grassi, Ernesto. Rhetoric as Philosophy: The Humanist Tradition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 2000.

Habib, M.A.R. “Andrew Cole. The Birth of Theory.” The Owl of Minerva 46, no. 1/2 (2014):       106-115.

—. Hegel and the Foundations of Literary Theory. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2019.

Hegel, G.W.F. Aesthetics.Oxford Univ. Press, 2010.

Jameson, Fredric. The Prison-House of Language. Princeton Univ. Press, 1975.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1987.

—. Notes and Fragments. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010.

—. Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime and Other Writings. Cambridge      Univ. Press, 2011.  

Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The King’s Two Bodies. Princeton University Press, 2016.

Koselleck, Reinhardt. Conceptual History. Stanford Univ. Press, 2002.

—. Sediments of Time. Stanford Univ. Press, 2018.

Matejka, Ladislav and Krystyna Pomorska, eds. Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and        Structural Views. Funks Grove: Dalkey Archive Press, 2002.

McDowell, Nicholas. Poet of Revolution: The Making of John Milton. Princeton Univ. Press,       2020.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. London: Richard Bently and Jacob Tonson, 1691

Nussbaum, Martha. “The Professor of Parody.” The New Republic 22, no. 2 (1999): 37-45.

Olsen, Niklas. History in the Plural. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014.

O’Neill, John, ed. Hegel’s Dialectic of Desire and Recognition: Texts and Commentary. SUNY    Press, 1996.

Pope, Alexander. An Essay on Man. Princeton Univ. Press, 2018.

Santayana, George. The Last Puritan. The MIT Press, 1995.

Savile, Anthony. Kantian Aesthetics Pursued. Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1993.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. Mineola: Dover Books, 1966.

Scruton, Roger. Fools, Frauds, Firebrands. London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019.

Shklovsky, Viktor. Theory of Prose. Funks Grove: Dalkey Archive Press, 2016.

Singer, Irving. George Santayana: Literary Philosopher. Yale Univ. Press, 2000.

Speight, Allen. Hegel, Literature, and the Problem of Agency. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001

Strauss, Heinrich. “The History and Form of the Seven-Branched Candlestick of the Hasmonean Kings.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 22, no. 1/2, 1959, p. 14. Accessed Sept. 27, 2019.

Tuve, Rosemary. Allegorical Imagery: Some Medieval Books and Their Posterity. Princeton University Press, 1966.

Yovel, Yirmiyahu. Kant’s Philosophical Revolution. Princeton Univ. Press, 2020.

Zammito, John H. The Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992.

Zuckert, Rachel. Kant on Beauty and Biology. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010.


[1] “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids”, for example, is prescient in this regard. It provides the reader access into two subterranean worlds, hidden to different classes and yet conjoined by the economic machinations of the early Industrial Revolution. In the former case we have an elite gathering which, by proxy, is inaccessible to the majority uninvited; in the latter we have the earlier stages of a recognizable slave labor, an incorrigible economic reality seldom associated with the West. This is in large part due to the destruction of the soul by way of body has been technologically balanced out by the psychological destruction of corporatism and its factories, where persons transform into numbers. Whereas the mill workers undergo metamorphosis by being stripped of dignity, the Temple-men undergo a metamorphosis all their own their heavy drinking: “… time told not by a water-clock, like King Alfred’s, but a wine-chronometer.” The narrator’s first encounter with this ‘Paradise of Bachelors’ is twofold: stories are relayed as drinks are downed, though it is more automatic than reminiscent of anything abiding. The men indeed take numbered turns in spinning yarns, although it is not a preface to anything more profound occurring in this paradise; it is chatter for the sake of chatter, drink for the sake of drink, and company for the sake of company. Temple-Bar is, in brief, a shallow place, an aura secretive societies seldom, if ever, give off. An outsider without access to the neighborhood Temple cannot help but wonder what transpires inside, though such an elaborate architectural structure cannot hold mere, automated banter… can it? This automatism of idle storytelling and imbibing subtly prepares the reader for a glimpse into the inner workings of a much more hellish automatism. Regarding the superstructure of Industrialism, Melville brings us into the pedestrian realm transpiring within. This mundane paradise brings to mind Arendt’s ‘Banality’ of evil, or Suetonius’s accounts of the twelve Caesars, one seldom accounts humanity with either the atrophied or the glorified. As the glorified Bachelors live a guarded, banal life behind closed doors, the atrophied mill workers exist in a hellish reality that itself is seldom taken to heart. To change the workers’ conditions is to lose money oneself, either in invest or in product spending; thus, despite someone like Upton Sinclair’s revelations in The Jungle, or even early Engels, the crisis of the mill workers is that from the get-go any hypothetical alleviating of inhumanity is itself a product of temporal bargaining. This overall contradictory crisis comes to a sociological climax in the following statement by the ‘dark-complexioned man’: “We want none but steady workers: twelve hours to the day, day after day, through the three hundred and sixty-five days, excepting Sundays, Thanksgiving, and Fast-days. That’s our rule. And so, having no married women, what females we have are rightly enough called girls.” Industrialism is, then, a horrifically perverted marriage of not just man to machine, but the death of life as way of life. There shall be no moral, intellectual, or psychic growth; the women must be girls. Further, it is either incessant machine-work, religion, nation, or sleep. Religion is covered in fast days, Sunday/Sabbath, and the nation’s history in Thanksgiving. Worse than prison, we are shown men who debauch behind the curtains, perhaps kingpins of such factories, and women – girls – who provide them with their paper. Melville’s reference to Locke’s mind as a blank sheet of paper is another cruel illusion, as is applying the title of Socrates to anyone so vain so as to belong to the Temple’s ilk. In this sense Sallust is cited as a prolegomena to the Middle Ages because of his prosaic rhetoricality’s ability to reflect imminent crisis around its author whilst chronicling it. But it is Sallustian because, as has been raised most recently in the medieval anthology Whose Middle Ages? (Fordham University Press, 2019) (ed. Erler, O’Donnell, et al), the prospect of Sallust, Hegel, or Melville force us to consider this: what is an era? Furthermore, this is not a matter of intuitive pondering but an unsung chronotype within the veins of what is called Fictionality. See, for instance, Julie Orlemanski’s “Who Has Fiction? Modernity, Fictionality, and the Middle Ages.” New Literary History 50.2 (2019): 145-170; Hatavara, Mari. ““I can tell the difference between fiction and reality.” Cross-fictionality and Mind-style in Political Rhetoric.” Narrative Inquiry 29.2 (2019): 332-349; and for a firmer method in theorizing technological feudalism: Alice Bell’s “Digital fictionality: possible worlds theory, ontology, and hyperlinks.” (2019): 249-271.

[2] John H. Zammito, The Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992), 90.

[3] Consider for instance the limits of limitation as purpose sans purposiveness, i.e. Kant’s §10 of the third Critique. Earlier it was noted that Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique is a text developing and professional literature scholars have been well-acquainted with for half a decade, which, among other things, pursues a muted archetype in referencing Immanuel Kant several times without detail or explanation as to how precisely Kant has had a hand in what is called theory today; the gist of this influential text is that one ought to know of Kant rather than anything about him. And it is the eternal recurrence of this archetype that begs the question, ‘How can literature scholars contemplate the demise of theoretical/critical practice with virtually the entirety of pre-Marxian philosophy at their disposal?’ In the case of Kant in particular, should one assume literature scholars may assume the Critiques impenetrable, a simple rebuttal is that for the literature scholar density has never been an issue. Further, where does this collective assumption come from, if not experience? Beyond any number of hypothetical other objections to Kant, there is an absolute lack of, say, ‘Why not study Kant and work with a piece of writing particularly relevant to aesthetics, purpose, and purposiveness?’ Thus I have chosen §10 of the third Critique for this note: to explain the text itself and its place in Kant’s construction of the book, as well as aesthetic system, while rethinking the intuition of the instant, or moment of cognition in the aesthetic object, in an age of digitality whereby the next wave of literature scholars is straightaway skeptical of the past four decades’ manner of proceeding. There is an effort made by Andrew Cole to bring German Idealism, in particularly Hegel, to literary scholars;  yet this text was itself refuted by perhaps the only other thorough-going Hegelian  in literary practice, in M.A.R. Habib.  However, this botched introduction of German Idealism into critical-theoretical practice for literature scholars also suffered from the fact that neither scholar actually isolate a philosophical section, unpack it in a manner both the developing and professional scholar can work with, and thereafter explicate in tandem with a specific literary object. For the literature scholar’s purpose seems to lack purposiveness; and this is where Kant and the third Critique come in for us in earnest. Through all of its theoretical developments and cycles, for literary practice Kant remains an anomaly. At least part of the problem is in lacking a proper place, or purpose to find a place, to begin, which I argue is in fact §10 of the third Critique. Literary scholarship has long acknowledged Kant without systematically working with him. This calls into question the very nature of the debt, connoting philosophical insight with self-actualization. Whether one is for or against the historiographical turn in theory that runs from Plotinus to Hegel (as we see in Cole), even here the philosophy of Kant is oddly missing. This is most unfortunate, particularly for those scholars who know how highly Kant himself valued literature, in particular English poetry. Thus it is only fitting to me that the time has come to refute automated determinism, as it has never entailed an actual Kantian systematic for literary scholars; the chronic rejection of Kant has never come with a purpose. Thus, I’ll be introducing the reader to Kant’s own remarks on purposiveness in the tenth paragraph of the third critique; I will be doing this in a manner that simultaneously makes sense to the novice and informs the philosopher. But Kantian purposiveness without a purpose is precisely a viable new line of vision needed in literature studies to overthrow theory’s self-imposed limitations. But it is at the same time imperative that I straightaway state that I am not seeking in this short paper to define an entire new school of Kantian criticism, instead analyzing the intuition of the instant that is the philosophically literate scholar willing to work with what is at least in one case considered the origin and nucleus of Kant’s third Critique in re-approaching both theory (or literary practice) and the literary work of art itself. By the end of this paper it will be clear that the lack of Kantian systematicity in literary practice is not because it cannot work, but because it has not been tried. The profundity of this contagious error is for me rather simple: literature scholars do not engage enough with philosophy. At the same time, I do not dream of any sort of ecumenicism of the humanities; but I do work from a premise like that of George Santayana’s,  as well as the Homeric precedence in Aristotle, in seeing something of a perpetual Venn Diagram oscillating throughout millennia, as we move from Kant into an extension of an early passage in his Observations concerning John Milton. Returning to the situation within which we are to incorporate Kant’s purposiveness without a purpose, and thus Felski, I’ll begin by noting that budding literature scholars can proceed past the first or second graduate semester without some type of grounding in what is called theory; but the idea of an all-encompassing philosophical school has run out of steam aboard the engine which began by configuring that theory must begin with Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche, which is why these budding scholars will be at once reading the tradition’s forebearers as well as a recent history that likewise sees theory as having run its course in Rita Felski’s Limits of Critique. Therefore the theory of literature is at once made synonymous with encroaching limitation, of theoretical bounds of sense closing in, that digitality has all but accelerated, rather than derailed, this epistemological stalemate. But why? asks Felski. Theory’s difficulty is made in part by an attraction that she compares to Burke’s sublime,  already setting us in a historical frame to engage Kant.  Theory, or critique, is for Felski “a quite stable repertoire of stories, similes, tropes, verbal gambits, and rhetorical ploys… it is virtually synonymous with intellectual rigor, theoretical sophistication, and intransigent opposition to the status quo.”  But in the same breadth Felski inadvertently displays the philosophical-historical ignorance that will repeatedly negate her own compression of a school of thought she – and untold English departments – claims may or may not have hit a wall, by attributing the grounds of theory to “Kant and Marx.”  This mentioning of Kant does not lead to any sort of systematic elucidation of how or why Kant and Marx, in particular as coupled, are co-founders of theory, and Kant himself does not appear in the book for another twenty-nine pages, when Felski notes that theory is correlative to a western skepticism wherein Kant, alongside Hume and Nietzsche, is a “key player.”  Kant does however appear some pages later, where his “Sapere aude” is noted alongside Descartes  in what can only be assumed a passage designed for undergraduates – but it isn’t. The “disinterested judgment subject of the Kantian subject” is then noted,  albeit in a passage concerning the aesthetics of professorial detachment. While this note is closer to an actual development of Kant, it is in the middle of a paragraph that otherwise has nothing to do with Kant. Later in the book,  Felski mentions Kant again alongside Marx and now also Foucault, speaking both for the presence of Kant in this book and for her fellow practitioners at large in that “We tacitly link ourselves link ourselves to a history [wherein they] loom large; we situate our in relation to a distinguished tradition of theoretical reflection and intellectual dissent”, though the passage is again a meaninglessly vague grouping, in passing, predicated upon the contradictory idea that the reader knows nothing of Kant, one of a handful to whom one’s profession is most indebted. The book is in a sense the perfect example of Kant’s role in literary practice at present: one must know his name but not his work. To this end one cannot help but feel dissatisfied when Kantian aesthetics is declined as a direction in theory as extraordinarily dense; for density is itself something that Felski has noted is a centrifugal aspect of theoretical attraction. There is something unseen that is daunting which is part of the reason Kant is literarily ambivalent. What, then, is the problem?  Perhaps Kant’s place of maxim, imperative, and the value of systematicity, indicates that Kant is not throwing things at the wall to sees what sticks; he cannot be bent in any given ideological direction. Kant demands a rigor that, if it is to be taken on, demands a particular sense of purpose in aesthetic cogitation on behalf of the literature scholar. The problem, then, is a lack of purpose: Felski pulls Kantian feathers out of her hat which lead nowhere, and one is forced to wonder what the role of Kant is in this book, its subject matter, and that the purpose of Kant in the forming or professional literature scholar is a matter of acknowledgment without substance, which is to say an apparent purpose without purposiveness. But what is at the narratological heart of what we might call, Purposiveness Sans Purpose: Kant’s Text? How can one approach an object while at the same time procure a willingness to work beyond the empirical? If we are to transcend the physical sensation of pleasure that accompanies sensory taste, we must set out on a purpose. For Kant, a purpose is according to its transcendental determinations the object of a concept, in so far as the concept is regarded as the cause of the object. The object is the real ground of its possibility; and the causality of a concept in respect of its object is its purposiveness. Though it is tempting to draw on, or gloss, aesthetic objects from various mediums, for the purpose of this paper we shall stick to the textual, in continuing a Milton passage Kant notes early on in the Observations; this has the twofold advantage of, firstly, not so much claiming that Kant was irrefutably influenced by Milton, but that with Kant we can read Milton in a revolutionary way that is at the heart of philosophizing the work of literature in the age of digital reproduction that likewise invites the scholar of letters to reconsider literary cognition; and thus secondly, essentially come to understand the implications that theory’s unchartered past being excavated and explicated is in fact its future. But returning to the aesthetic object as concerns §10, the object’s form and existence is thought as an effect only possible by means of the concept of this effect of transcendental cognition. The representation of the effect is here the determining ground of its cause and precedes it. Consciousness of the causality of a representation, maintaining the subject in the same state, may denote what we call pleasure.   However, says Kant, “on the other hand pain is that representation which contains the ground of the determination of the state of representations into their opposite [of restraining or removing them].”  As political temporality solidified itself as the determinant root of criticism, an equally determinant idea of justice took its place; but in order to proceed on the restraining wave of conceptual justice one must perpetually confront subjective pain in the name of a justice that is, if chronically idealistic, anthropologically nefarious. Aesthetic restrain and removal of perceived political enemies was of course an intellectual death sentence; the trend that in this situate becomes absolute is at the same time predicated upon the promise of unlimited progress without definitiveness. But this is not to say that the eclipse of sublimity is itself bad, nor that justice (which has become a lamentably loaded word) is in the objective sense a good thing. Poets are not excluded from this, as in the case of poetic justice; it is rather a temporality of subjective justices that is problematic as a standalone school of thought, and likewise one that cannot coincide in tandem with an all-crushing systematicity of letters that lends itself to a reciprocal nature in, by virtue of its philosophical range, effortlessly uplifts and promotes a greater poetical culture not unlike that yearned for in Schiller’s letters. For as in the case of an all-crushing metaphysics, iron simply sharpens iron, and that which is destroyed by truth, however painful, is destroyed is the best sense possible, and is itself in line with the foundations of what is called theory. However, centering itself in pain, theory was bound to double its pain by adhering specifically to a severely limiting idea of historicism; likewise, the theorists who decry limitations while shunning Kant have taken the second part of his sentence here, without preliminarily absorbing the aesthetic brunt of it. To this end theory stands to benefit from Kant in the same way that, as concerns canonicity and the idea of the masterpiece, “the faculty of desire, so far as it is determinable only through concepts, i.e. to act in conformity with the representation of a purpose, would be the will.” The aesthetic object or theory is thus determined in conjunction with the faculty of desire as concerns the representation of a purpose. The less historically, self-reflexively stifled any given aspect of perceived purpose-representation correlates desire and will. The faculty of desire that is predicated upon an unquestioned understanding of its latent inclusivity, and has in fact already delimited the prospects of a purpose that is the will which is not predetermined by ideological axis, but by the line of sight in one approaching the aesthetic object, in our case the book. There is a twofold aspect here, however, as is the case with aesthetic scholarship: first, there is the object-in-itself; and secondly, at the same time, there is the perceptive apparatus, moldable, en route to the object; that with experience and conviction this apparatus seems increasingly comfortable or at home says nothing about the newness with which every project is taken up afresh, paralleled by aesthetic approach to the object, or even revisitation to the object, wherein the case must have added to it experiential strata and the impossible object of reexperience. At the same time, the very act is, as Kant notes, in conformity; part of its appellation is an illusory open-endedness, proven by the very first level of this argument, which is that literary scholarship is in a stalemate, but it claims to have no certain idea as to why this is (though whatever it is, Kant cannot guide us in comprehending it, or for that matter, aesthetic experience and theory in the age of digitality. For Kant “an Object, or a state of mind, or even an action, is called purposive, although its possibility does not necessarily presuppose the representation of a purpose, merely because its possibility can be explained and conceived by us only so far as we assume for its ground a causality according to purposes, i.e. a will which would have so disposed it according to the representation of a certain rule.” Rather than begin our methods of execution in a predetermined state of mind (or a concrete idea of the bounds of ideological sense), we can divide the idea of that which is purposive into object, state of mind, or action. In no case is the representation of a purpose necessarily presupposed. Hence, the very purpose of the scholar amidst, or approaching, literary cognition, does not do so a single movement, or frame. Rather, the grounds of dialogical sense are defined by the possibility, rather than the fact, of representational purposiveness. Explanatory conception, we learn here from Kant, is a causal matter pertaining to the grounds of a will that disposes the causality of assumption with regard to that which is in fact predetermined, in the first half of the moment of approach, in representation of a certain rule. But what rule, then? As Felski and others would have it, this rule does not exist, because the idea of such a rule cannot coincide with the excoriating prospects of theoretical literature. However, what is said is about a third of what is at stake, coupled by the implication therein as well as the negative dialectical space taken up by what is not said. This can be floated in a more vulgar political sense, but the real understanding in a survey of theory at wits’ end is in the absolute lack of self-awareness coupled with the prospect of Kantian aesthetics. This is precisely where Kant, and we, arrive at the crux of the matter, purposiveness without purpose as a means to literary practice in the age of digitality. Purposiveness without purpose is a form that, not being a totality, is unfit for a will; the aesthetic object does not as a prerequisite engulf one on the way to cognizing with a will that begins with a purposiveness without purpose, but is made intelligible by way of derivation. Here, again, formalism  strikes me as one of several ways in which a scholar might work with Kant in a school of theory, in less picking out bits and pieces than approaching Kant with an openness to systematicity that is itself a process correlative to explaining a poem or book in a way that is intelligible by means of derivation rather than dogmatic empiricism. That this itself gives one the nature and freedom of optional modes in observation and possibility that grants the scholar, or reader, a greater proximity to the ontological subjectivity of reason (not that an objective reason does not exist, but that, staying with Kant in a broader sense, one is through purposiveness without purpose given greater flexibility in coming to grips with historical and historiographical subjectivity, and hence a greater dialectical fusion of narratives, en route to the topical – there are about seven billion ways of looking at the world, with a little overlap; such is both continent and canvas): “Thus we can at least observe a purposiveness according to form, without basing it on a purpose (as the material of the nexus finalis), and we can notice it in objects, although only by reflection.” But where shall Kantian thinking lead the scholar of letters? To an interior revolution, or systematic destruction of all self-imposed limitations that, like Schopenhauer’s Berkeley,  gave one good thing: the means of overcoming aesthetic bondage in the age of digital reproduction. This notion having passed, one must less return to Kant than arrive. John Milton, like Kant, is considered a revolutionary in his field,  albeit for Milton the artistic revolution is a successful opposition to the ruling spirit of any given community, within his life being his age and community, but made truly revolutionary not in the vulgar sense of temporality and governance, while constructing an aesthetic systematicity that is itself relevant in every age. Then, having experienced the selection in terms of purposiveness and purposivity without a purpose, has one undergone something of an initiation into the type of hermeneutic import Makkreel writes of, but without having to presuppose any type of imaginative play other than a reconceptualization of that which is given at the surface. To this end I would suggest picking up where Kant left off at the beginning of his Observations.  And thus a voice cries out in a lucid dream, “Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed”! For while our old friend Hegel would see it another way,  the poetic procession of Kant’s establishes Milton as in one sense, while working in a sort of inverted Dantean tradition, through a harrowing beauty that has the universality of lacking concrete predecessor, while in another, moving through an indeterminate concept. The poet, in making it his object to simultaneously elucidate both the fall of man and the imaginative lengths which this indicates, while in another sense Milton conveys to us “utter darkness.” And the reader might particularly take him at his word; in his blindness Milton both reconceptualized being and nothingness, something the sighted can but taste a glimpse of should one close one’s eyes, and then with one’s eyes remaining closed, imagine one has opened them: such is the first trace of a beginning of what one might call hermeneutic blindness, as concerns pre-earth space and time, whereby one turns to purposiveness, or Kant. Thus this flood of flames, or “fiery Deluge, fed with ever-burning Sulphur unconsum’d” strikes the reader as both familiar and alien at once: it has purpose but lacks purposivity. The movement from religious poesy to the canon, or collective memory, involves Milton neither trying to merely convert, nor displaying the furthest heights of mortal imagination in an effort to subtly convey that what have historically been mandated as the Word of God is in fact the words of imaginative men. Rather, Milton’s purpose is not to go where other poets have not gone for the sake of exploration, but rather to explicate that which is comparatively speaking glossed in the Bible. It is not only his narrative subject matter that is epic; employing the English language to fill in biblical plots with enormously detailed imaginings is in essence to add to the receptivity of the theoretically infallible. Milton is taking it upon himself to continue the biblical tradition through an aesthetics that transcends commentary while at the same time is sheer imagination; its canonicity is thus a subtle testament to the aesthetic mind for-itself in light of church dogmatics and political theologies. Hence the object’s cause, or the cause of this particularly striking imagery in a flood of unconsumed sulphur, is on the one hand the very causality that leads one from moving to comprehending the textual ‘images’ as qua-poetry, but rather in its form and existence, as a concept of the effect that is preceded via oscillation between the rhapsodic pleasure of absorption versus the systematic pleasure of on the one hand, contemplation or revelry, and on the other, the systematicity of interpretive schools. However, as no work of art is synonymously venerated, there is also the grounds of displeasure in light of purposiveness to take into account. But displeasure in the presentations of Hell, or displeasure in the state/state of mind Milton is (arguably) speaking on behalf of, seems to currently render the highpoints of western aesthetics in a sense of fascism/communism, ala the closing of Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.  This displeasure, which I believe is foregrounded in a faultily subjective premises of ahistorical bending, is not unlike a displeasure which Kant describes as “that presentation which contains the basis that determines [the subject to change] the state [consisting] of [certain] presentations  into their own opposite.” Naturally, such is a perfectly tenable mode of criticism. But that it has become the foundation of all contemporary literary practice is where there is nowhere to go but into the specter of cultural decline, having mistaken a type of perception for the entirety of perception through which all others flow. However, as I remarked earlier, the scholar of letters can no longer plead ignorance from an ideological point of view as concerns the life and times of any given subject, or author. Milton, to this end, brings us a Hell that is interwoven with less the conditions of his time, than the conditions of all times. As a maxim, the state is not the artist’s friend; the state is the perennial foe of the artist, for the artist’s task is to remember and uncomfortably remind the public that oscillating between automation and distraction are unfits poles of being. From the sociological point of view, it is dispelling the culture industry and its tentacles that appear in less obvious places, as in the eschatological implications of pre-torn clothing; and that for the same generation, three decades on, that one is not made younger by plastic surgery, but rather is given, should the treatment call for it, the veneer of having aged less than one has. Likewise, lacking purpose, literature scholarship puts on the performance of rigor, of exterior diversities, but it all comes at the cost of an absolute lack of interior diversity, and hence individuality, thus negating the very precepts of poetical discourse. But it is the very veneer of unreality that itself might prove as a heuristic means by which to recultivate one’s perceptive apparatus, by cognizing the power of desire. This power of desire is at work in Milton when we read “Such place Eternal Justice had prepar’d/For those rebellious, here their Prison ordain’d/In utter darkness.” There is the rudimentary desire for order, which essentially comes down to the state enforcing any given religious creed or lack thereof with equally religious fervor. There is likewise the desire to acknowledge, rather than activate, eternal justice, which apparently predates Adamic being and all that comes with it. But why then, appears interwoven into Milton’s aesthetic, is there an eternal justice for mortal beings? On the theological end of things, one might suggest predestination.  On the other, this itself appears a purpose without purposiveness. As far as a Judeo-Christian aesthetics is concerned Kant is again helpful, in noting We do call objects, states of mind, or acts purposive, even if their possibility does not necessarily presuppose the presentation of a purpose; we do this merely because we can    explain and grasp them only if we assume they are based on causality [that operates] according to purposes, i.e., on a will that would have so arranged them in accordance        with the presentation of a certain rule.And yet eternal justice is, when empirical, incidentally empirical. We are faced again with purposiveness without a purpose, as we cannot understand as well as it had hitherto been perceived just how, why, when, or where, this seemingly eternal justice comes from, where it dwells in the case of, say, a parent never finding out who murdered their child, or a criminal on the loose, burning down businesses, without ever getting caught, “and yet can grasp the explanation of its possibility only by deriving it from a will” (Kant 65). Such is, in a sense, the will of God; yet Milton also made it clear at the start of this poem.  We know that Kant cherished Pope.  If the will of God must either be a metaphorical way of speaking altogether along the way of the species’ developing consciousness, we might see then Milton conceptually willing the concept of a will, which is in fact, if abstract at a glance, something that is at the heart of being in western time. Reason alone does not suffice; purposiveness in form lends itself to observational harmonies in the structural object; and finally reflection eclipses purpose, becoming itself the purpose without purposiveness, which is poetic self-reflexivity in time, guided by philosophy. Thus the eternality of justice and its ever-present author can for Milton serve thusly as a vehicle with which for one to further consider the initial Kantian isolation of Milton’s passages, in reading “[,] and their portion set/As far remov’d from God and light of Heav’n/As from the Center thrice to th’ utmost Pole./O how unlike the place from whence they fell!” Portions are set, albeit as far from God and heaven as exclusively analogous quantitative terms allow, measured three times over from the furthest pole, and thus describing in epic detail that which both does and does not exist: plot details glossed from pre-being being, or rather the concept of pre-being being, as spoken by a blind being, on the way to expositing the tyranny of heaven. However, in refraining from selecting a poem, book, or excerpt with a prearranged ideological determinism at work, one is forgoing the great deal of trends considered absolute both for several decades and at present. At the same time, it might be suggested that a foregoing of ideology is the root of all ideology. But this is, again, where Kant comes in. For if this type of thinking were easily capable of being cast down, Felski’s book would not end on the ambiguous, inconclusive note that it does, a fate predetermined by neglecting philosophical history in general, and Kant specifically.  However, in proceeding with Kant, we employ section ten as to further situate the poetics of space, Milton’s blind vision of sublimity, that lends itself to a new type of systematicity, that is, an all-crushing recapitulation of ongoing deterministic temporalities. For we are immediately reading a different kind of Hell when are approaching it from this newly implemented point of view. Gone is the automated immersion in a long-running sociological-ecclesiastical afterlife with which so many readers understandably enter Milton; but we are not concerned with the predetermined, as such is the cause of literature’s theoretical stalemate, having lost sight of historiography of philosophy, the engagement with which is theory’s purpose. Thus with Kant, we can refrain from entering into the already-known Judeo-Christian lore, and reexamine the philosophical-aesthetics of Milton’s apparent retelling of the fall of man, and what it means that it means what it appears to mean. The crowning aspect of a new Kantianism in theory is that it likewise offers the practitioner a chance to continue work that Kant carried out, even in the referential form of excerpts, and take the mode of perception further, a concept that brings the scholar closer to Kant by working not only with Kant but through him. The sublime and the beautiful are not ideological strains or specific types of textual figures; they are rather a coupled synthesis capable of dialectical fusion, as in the Miltonic sublimity or beauty of Hell. On the one hand, the literature scholar is at once opened to a book’s worth of material in synthesizing Milton’s visions of Hell, its famous illustrators, and Kant’s remarks on aesthetics and religion. On the other hand, however, it is in keeping with the task at hand to pick up where Kant left off, moving from his selection of eight lines into the next eight, through the lens of §10: “Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed/With ever-burning Sulphur unconsum’d:/Such place Eternal Justice had prepar’d.” Our absorption of this semiotic constellations might be well guided by John H. Zammito, whose Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment sustains Kant’s commitment to the Christological. “Purposiveness – teleology – served as the vehicle for the development for the Critique of Taste”, writes Zammito.  “Purpose is the relation between a concept and an object whereby the concept acts as cause of the actuality (existence) of the object… Kant found it necessary to discriminate repeatedly between ‘sensation’ and ‘feeling’, that is, objective and subjective reference.” (91). As practical as this sounds, its sheer practicality is in fact the essence missing from literary practice that has hitherto disabled its most influential figures from even suggesting a systematic philosophical investigation that opens itself to the history of philosophy. We see this soon enough after Kant as well, in Schiller and Hegel, in the societal and individual demand for balance on the way to – in our case literary – cognition. En masse or the being-proper, scales grossly tipped with the weight of emotion dismantle any premise of rhetorical construction from getting off the ground.Naturally, there is more at play than rhetoric in our case, Kant’s, Schiller’s, or Hegel’s; but I would also suggest that a philosophical cognizing of poetics takes the philosophy of rhetoric with a sense of prescient acuity, as was the case with Grassi,  and as we’ll see in a moment, in an extension of the trivium, logic. Thus, when Zammito further notes that the conceptual universality of consent claimed in a judgment of taste is not actually an element of literal universality, which lies in logical validity. Claims of emotive-political validity in aesthetic cognition are thus unfit for the very feigned universality such doctrines’ scaffolding are made of; Kant is rather interested in “the freest choice possible for man” (93), for such is less a return to taste and beauty but a refurnished cognizing of plurality in being, and thus open to the canons of historiography and philosophy, as this merger with aesthetic cultivation and study is itself true nature, and true freedom, in its seeking neither to exclusively conserve nor doctrinally repudiate, but to reimagine the moment of aesthetic pre-contact, or the moment of absorption that is the willed act, that is the systematicity interwoven within the form of purpose and reality. Such is a typological landscape: that the tradition of the form ultimately bolsters both maker and receiver into recognition of the object’s accumulation process in conceptual time, allowing one to move past appearance, which alone is not actuality, into the processional gravity of the object. Such is at work when we for so many literary works we read “in the spirit of…”; it is that place wherein influence is an understatement, as influence itself is surface level, and thus the appearance of the whole. Which brings us full to circle to Milton, for whom Harold Bloom connotes a particular genius in that he lacks, in his life and poetics, the anxiety of influence. Milton seems to have no real systematic forebearer in his aesthetic approach; he was a devout classicist, but none of his work can be better understood beside Hesiod or Homer, Quintilian or Clement, John of Salisbury or Thomas Becket.

Kant, I would think, with his own revolutionary  project, does not immediately parallel any of his philosophical forebearers; such is the movement from traditional ascendancy to dialogical invention, which should be an organic process for all philosophy and literature, and the former’s cognizing of the latter, as “Purposiveness is a cognitive language to which we resort in the extremity of empirical anomaly.” Concerning free play, Chaouli contends that, for Kant, play’s purpose cannot be found outside the region of experience between and conceptual determination, as play is neither devoid of purpose (in the case of nonsense) nor is geared toward a nameable purpose, as in the case of cognition.  “Kant’s mysterious, unwieldy formula of a ‘purposiveness without purpose’ describes just this logic of play: a purposeful way of doing whose purpose can be found nowhere within itself and that consequently ‘strengthens and reproduces itself (§12).’  It is neither beneath the region of experience nor beyond conceptual determination; thus the region of experience whereby conceptual determination must, I suggest, turn to historical thinking, as such is the sole way we can enact a systematic of canonicity in light of rule, or aesthetic dogmas. Such would seem to move from the beautiful to the biological; and in the moment leading to §10, Rachel Zuckert sees Kant broaching “how we can become conscious of the harmony among our cognitive powers – and answers that we become conscious of our judging activity through ‘sensation’ (219).”  It is this very sensory strata that leads Kant into the unpacking of purpose and purposiveness, and ought likewise to awaken in the contemporary scholar the predicament they find themselves in while proclaiming rules in a realm of abandoned canonicity. As Chaouli understands it, it is actually less a rule than a rule-boundness, mirroring purposivity without purpose, which also finds grounds in normativity without norms and “lawfulness without law.”  We find ourselves thus moving from a rigidly ambiguous history of theory, with Kant, into the realm of being, or anthropology. It is precisely this philosophical anthropology Chaouli identifies the question of aesthetic pedagogy, which is of course the preliminary question of this paper altogether. This “detour”  is perhaps one perfectly constructive rejoinder to Felski: that the as-defined history unto limitation is in fact less exhausted than in need of a detour. And yet the detour is through itself, with even Felski sprinkling the prospect along the way, albeit hitherto unbeknownst to any readers, save when we took up the Kantian cause of purpose altogether, and augmented the elephant in the room. Purposiveness is furthermore a prelude to modality, rather than a recycled socio-political frame.  The assumed purpose oscillating between temporality and determinism is in fact at a limit, but it is a self-imposed limit that theoreticians mistake for contemporaneous grievances, misplacing emotional argument for logico-historical thinking, that is, a historical lens that takes into account victor and vanquished, philosopher and author, whose predicate is, as in §9, for Kant a clearer presence of universal beauty. Universal beauty operates under an indeterminate concept; this is precisely the end of §9/221 that leads to the task at hand (from it we glance ahead to §11 and reconsider what is called reading).  One is likewise purporting how the aesthetic object came into being, the artwork its final end, as we read in Zuckert that Kant’s teleology is purpose and purposiveness, i.e. “they are understood to characterize the nature of rational agency.”  This too makes perfect sense of the above idea of detouring the history of the concept of theory, as per an unpacking that the literary scholar is already well familiar with in assessing the ideological causes and boundaries of any given lens toward a school. The school’s spokespersons have mistaken a fragment for the whole. For while there is no doubt a means of understanding any given text by means of any branch of critical theory; but it is when the imprecisely summarized cannot remove itself from its method of proceeding that the entirety of philosophical discourse is rendered less than a footnote or, as in the case of Kant, a substanceless name amongst others. It should be then either purposiveness without purpose, with or without secondary literatures helping throw light on the concept, that reaffirm the genesis and structure of the precognition of aesthetic insight. In apprehending the systematicity and purpose of neglected forerunners we do not hamper contemporary discourse but rather force it to defend itself, which if it is seriously rigorous scholarship, it should have no qualms whatsoever doing. One is not resurrecting pleasure but re-confronting it, a Kantian pleasure Zuckert defines as “consciousness of a representation’s causality directed at the subject’s state so as to keep him in that state.”  Desire causes the actuality of the object; it is specifically human in that it is linguistic. Aspects of endurance, which border on canonicity, lead one to philosophical insistence in the role of cognizing literature and its study. Literature is philosophical. One cannot compose a poetic work, or effectively construct novelistic discourse, without a philosophy of literature. Returning to the bounds of rule-sense, we are aware also of the severer forms of literature that themselves certainly have a philosophy, even if the philosophy is one of extensive editorial labor in an effect to make a work appear haphazard. But in the case of a less abrasive form, one must with Kant’s maxim of perpetual immersion in past masters without mechanically reproducing them. If one is accurately living with and through the masters, one is on the way to aesthetic discourse; it would be impossible for one to read the masterpieces of literature and philosophy without eventually coming up with good ideas of one’s own. Hence, what began as theory some decades ago constituted a rejection of teleological history, an attitude traditionally prescribed to Montaigne or Descartes  without ever systematically engaging the aesthetic ramifications of either teleological history or historical teleology. The result was historical teleology shrouded in political theology. This line of thinking, mistaken as a nucleus rather than an angle, is both unoriginal and contradictory; the literary sense of purpose was altogether thrust into ideological variations on suffering, which was itself submerged into digitality, and therein paralyzed. As such, it appeared and appears as though theoretical letters has hit a wall, while in truth the possibility of a poverty of historical-philosophical knowledge was never broached. Such is a collective lack of self-awareness identical to Milton’s Adam and Eve and has been disadvantageous to both literary scholarship and American literary culture. But that is where Kant comes in. Kant has been epidemically neglected by literature scholars not because he has been weighed and found wanting, but because literature scholars did not know where or how to begin; that there is no better place to begin than with purposiveness itself in light of a systematicity of commentators and a formalistic reading of the text itself. For the transportation of revelation from abstraction to the tangible mirrors purposivity and its rejoinder. The purpose of the work is likewise caught within the purposiveness without purpose of being: both are subjectively distinct albeit identical in difference. Rejection of historiographical excavation is a choice rather than a revelation, whereby literature scholars remain trapped in a predicament identical to Plato’s cave. It is a cutting off of the psychological oxygen of methods and philosophical discourses available to us throughout conceptual history and time; a Kantian school of literature in light of digitality may well challenge preordained dialectical reason into confronting both its theoretical limitations in literary practice as well as its poverty of historical-philosophical knowledge. Is this not the very philosophical task of literature and poetics to begin with? One is with Kant in thinking that this is both a good and necessary thing, a logical perfection of cognition.  Hence literary practice stands to gain the destruction of its self-imposed limitations, and perhaps in the future someone will write a book-length account of this, supplementally modeled on the first Critique, perhaps entitled Critique of Theory. But even before the prolegomena must come the aesthetic (school) and architectonic (literary type) annihilation of determinism on the way to purposiveness without a purpose, moving into philosophy through digitality, for the sake of the retrieval of critique.


[i] See Bede’s On Ezra and Nehemiah, p. 138: “[W]e should admire the faith and excellent resolution of the people who were freed from captivity, who /1575/ refer to themselves as the holy seed but the other nations in distinction to their own as the people of the lands, so that they might openly imply that they themselves, although born from the earth, nevertheless have their dwelling on earth but in heaven…”

[ii] DeGregorio, Scott: The Cambridge Companion to Bede, p. 127

[iii] Ibid, p. 129.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid, p. 130.

[vi] M.M. Bakhtin notes Bede among others regarding medieval-[anti-]Christological allegorical frameworks in Rabelais and His World p. 293: “The Biblical giant, for instance, was seen by Augustine and Bede as more than a Goliathan foe, i.e. an insurmountable foe; Bede, for instance, interpreted the concept of giant as an incarnation of the Antichrist”.

[vii] See Rosemary Tuve’s Allegorical Imagery: Some Medieval Books and Their Posterity,pp. 108-12.

[viii] Strauss, Heinrich. “The History and Form of the Seven-Branched Candlestick of the Hasmonean Kings.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 22, no. 1/2, 1959, p. 14. In particular, “Apart from the majority of later church candelabra, the type with arms becoming higher towards the centre is also found in old Christian manuscripts: Cosmas Indicopleustes (v. above, n. 3, Good- enough, fig. Io); a picture in Bede’s commentary on the Apocalypse, MS. 209, St. John’s College, Cambridge. This form preserved the connection with the tree of life of the ancient Sumerians more closely than the traditional Jewish one.”

[ix] DeGregorio, p. 132.

[x] Kantorowicz notes as such in The King’s Two Bodies, i.e. p. 53: “…Cyrus [in Ezra-Nehemiah] appears as a prefiguration of Christ”; p. 69: “Bede has also seen the Temple’s divided curtain as a symbol of the Church, itself symbolic: men on earth, saints and angels ruling above.”

[xi] Consider Mary Carruthers’s The Book of Memory, viz. p. 416: “Bede stresses that he is following in the Latin Fathers’ footsteps, and in one a sense this is true. Jerome’s Commentary on Ezekiel, as well as Gregory the Great’s, were with patristic commentaries on the Psalms, the most frequently adapted Old Testament commentaries. None, however, do quite what Bede did; his allegorical autobiography.”