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Ovi Symposium; fifty-first Meeting Ovi Symposium; fifty-first Meeting
by Nikos Laios
2015-05-09 06:43:58
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Ms Abigail George, Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Paolozzi, Paparella and Mr. Rywalt
Fifty-first Meeting: 7 May 2015

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

rywaltEdwin Rywalt is a computer specialist living in Pennsylvania with his family. He is a talented and accomplished pianist with a college education from Columbia University and a life---long scholarly interest in the nexus between science, technology, and the liberal arts. Beginning in May 2014 he will be offering pro bono services to the Ovi Symposium with typo correction editing and other useful suggestions aiming at improving the overall format of the twice a month section of Ovi magazine. Perhaps in the future, if his commitments allow it, he may decide to join the Symposium’s ongoing dialogue.

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Subtheme of session 51: “The Poetics of Confessional Writing and Autobiography” 

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Augustine, Plato, Verene, Vico, Descartes, Rousseau, Socrates, Alelard, Montaigne, Hume, Newman, Mill, Nietzsche, Collingwood, Russell, Inglis, Hemingway, Rilke, Tolstoy, Sexton, Plath, Rich, Lowell, Jonker, Donne, Verga, Homer, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Dante, Euripides, Lawrence, Kafka, Miller, Kazantzakis, Warhol, Chagall, Michael.

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Table of Contents for the 51st Session of the Ovi Symposium (7 May 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “Confessional Writing, Autobiography and Philosophy of History: a Nexus and an Exploration.” A presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: “Diary of a Confessional Poet.” A presentation by Abigail George

Section 3: A poem by John Donne: “No Man Is An Island.”

Section 4: “The Narcissism of Confessional Writings.” A presentation by Nikos Laios.

Section 5: A comment by way of a dialogue on this meeting’s three presentations by the Symposium’s coordinator.

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella
(51th session: 7 May 2015

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In this meeting of the Ovi Symposium we explore and survey a modern controversial literary trend, namely, confessional writing. We ask the question to what extent is this new trend similar to what was called autobiography and do confessional writing and autobiography have historical philosophical underpinning? And if so which are they? Do all confessional writings have psychological therapeutic constructions in as much as they are an imaginative presentation of our inner lives, hence different from autobiography which focuses on the outer events of one’s life?  Does confessing imply an element of salvation as the sacrament of reconciliation in Catholic Christian practice would intimate? Are those scenes on MTV’s “Real World,” where participants deliver soliloquies in a darkened space, the contemporary equivalent of the confessional box with sins virtually or symbolically absolved? Is psychological therapy the same as confessing, albeit much more expensive? Is the act of writing in itself the poet’s salvation or is repentance and amendment also necessary?

But there is more. Is such confessional writing an attempt to split open the self? To follow a path to illumination and poetic growth in order to create a space of intimacy between reader and writer? To what degree do new media technologies such as MySpace and Twitter create, fulfill and/or frustrate our desires to broadcast secrets?  Or, on the other hand, is this a brand new psychic geography to be explored and mapped out? Is it an exploration of psychological phenomena such as honesty, depression, suicidal tendencies or just dramatic posturing by those with narcissistic tendencies? Or, is it a feminist push-back against certain patriarchal social constructs such as that of the academic hierarchy still under men’s domination?

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Can confessional writing be defined? Can it be characterized as a movement? One thinks of modern writers such as Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich (treated extensively by Abigail George in previous issues of the Symposium), and Robert Lowell. The question arises: is the confessional writing of women different from men’s or do they have common characteristics? Is the critique that art should be for art’s sake and not for therapeutic and melodramatic purposes associated with healing, in any way a valid critique? Could the reaction by various academic men against this form of writing due to their conception of women as “unmanly,” whimsical, deceitful, subtle, helpless, sentimental, vacillating, simply misguided and gender biased? That is to say: is knowing weakness the same as being weak as such a critique seems to imply?

Sometimes even without a direct dialogue, texts come together and question each other and even give implied answers. This is certainly the case with the theme of confession and autobiography as treated in this meeting of the Ovi Symposium. Perhaps the lynchpin between the different views here offered is that great poem by John Donne For Whom the Bell Tolls which we have included here.

Indeed, this is a vast and complex subject going back millennia, perhaps it can be located at the very origins of cultural anthropology understood as the history of humankind. And of course it is all made possible by language which is something symbolical and in many ways mysterious and therefore has always attracted philosophers and cultural anthropologists. To explore this theme as writing, literature, psychology and philosophy we would need to go back at the very least to the one who can be labeled the grandfather of all confessional writers: Augustine and his famous “Confessions.”

We have already briefly explored Augustine’s Confessions in a previous presentation outside the symposium (see http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/12204). This time around we’d like to move on to a brief examination of three scholarly books which examine the nexus between autobiography, philosophy and historical narrative, and indirectly, with confessional writing. Abigail George, as a practitioner of feminist poetic confessional writing, will deal with the subject from an existential-literary-feminist viewpoint. In section three we recall a famous poem by John Donne which focuses on the insight that in some way our humanity unites us all in life but also in death. In some way the poem can function as linchpin for the slightly divergent views expressed here. Nikos Laios in section four looks at the other side of the coin, so to speak, of the nature of confessional writing; that is to say, he addresses the various critical reservations that have made the subject  a rather controversial one within modernity. In the final section the coordinator attempts to assess the interesting dialogue that has ensued on confessional writing and draws some tentative conclusions. It is to be hoped that this initial dialogue will continue as the subject becomes more clear and coherent when examined rationally. It is indeed proper and fitting that it should happen within a symposium. 

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1

 The Nexus between Philosophy, Autobiography and Historical Knowledge
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

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In the 1991 treatise by Donald Phillip Verene titled The New Art of Autobiography: An Essay on the Life of Giambattista Vico Written by Himself we have the first full-length study of Vico's highly original autobiography by  a widely recognized Vico scholar. He  discusses Vico’s autobiography’s place in the history of the genre generally, and shows it to be the first work of modern intellectual autobiography that uses a genetic method. Moreover, he views the autobiography as a work in which Vico applies the principles of human history already discussed in The New Science, making the telling of his own life an application and verification of his own philosophy. He then considers it in relation to Augustine's Confessions, Descartes' Discourse, and Rousseau's Confessions. Vico is clearly shown to be not only the founder of the modern philosophy of history predating Hegel, an historical phenomenon this disputed only by a few eccentrics attempting to attract attention to themselves, but Vico is also shown to be the originator of a philosophical art of methodological self-narrative which is the response by a modern thinker to the ancient problem of self-knowledge. Surely one can discover autobiography even in Socrates’ self-defense before the prosecuting Athenian court of justice, or injustice as the case may be, but we have to wait for Vico to establish and elucidate the nexus between philosophy, history and autobiography. That is not to say that many important philosophers have not written historical accounts of their own lives eschewing the more impersonal, abstract and argumentative style of philosophical writing.

Particularly interesting in Autobiography as Philosophy is  a general discussion about the nexus between philosophical and autobiographical writing; also brilliant essays on the specific writings of Augustine, Abelard, Montaigne, Descartes, Vico, Hume, Rousseau, Newman, Mill, Nietzsche, Collingwood and Russell.

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R.G. Collingwood was very familiar with both The New Science and Vico’s Autobiography, wrote extensively on the philosophy of history. The assumption throughout  is not only that major works in philosophy warrant a biography of the philosopher, but that the life will illuminate the work in ways that reflection on the work alone will fail to do. This of course is a debatable assumption which seems to contradict the notion that what makes a major philosopher is precisely the work and the work alone, not the hagiography around it, often degenerating into a veritable cult of a particular pet philosopher and philosophy conforming to one’s own particular mind-set.

To be sure, R. G. Collingwood's An Autobiography as examined by Fred Inglis was written several decades ago is justifiably considered a classic of its kind. What is intriguing about it is that Collingwood insists in its preface that his work stands apart from his life. That work, Collingwood reminds us, comprises a rapprochement between philosophy and history, theory and practice. Exactly what we also find in Vico’s autobiography. But this important distinction between work and the life is what Fred Inglis does not seem to stress in his biography of Collingwood. To be sure, philosophical biography sheds greatest light on its subject when the biographer displays a firm grasp not only of the work and life of the philosopher, but also of the connections between them. But Inglis seems to reject Collingwood's autobiographical determination to tell the story of his life solely in terms of his work.

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So, when Inglis speaks about the job of the biographer as the re-enactment of his subject's thought, he does so in the context of his view that the philosopher's thought as a philosopher and his life are indistinguishable. Now Collingwood certainly rejects the picture of philosophy as a form of logical analysis akin to mathematics, but if, for Collingwood, philosophy lacks the impersonality of mathematics, something also found in Vico’s historicism (which declares that what man makes, history being one of the things he makes, can be known even more precisely than what he does not make), it does not necessarily follow that he thought philosophical difficulties the same as personal ones. So, Inglis must either separate biography from history or turn biography into art form. What he ends up doing is wavering between the two.

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Enthusiastic defenders of philosophical biography will insist that it enables us to understand a philosopher's work not differently, but better. Collingwood, however, is absolutely clear, as Vico also is, that biography and mere documentation and chronological recounting of life events is not history. Equally important for Collingwood is his view that historical knowledge is more like a condition of human understanding in general than simply a specialized part of it. Further, the rapprochement which Collingwood looked for in the relation between history and philosophy could only be achieved if history was conceived in this way. There can, therefore, be no rapprochement between philosophy and biography. While the rapprochement between history and philosophy is possible, the rapprochement between philosophy and biography is not.

So, for Collingwood as well as for Vico, it is not sufficient for philosophical biographers to claim that they are showing us previously unseen connections between the work and the life. Those connections are better left to the philosophers themselves who know the development of their own thought. That avoids the risk of misunderstanding the work while explaining the life. Which is to say, it is better by far to read Collingwood’s own autobiography than Inglis’ biography of the same. If a biography needs to be written, it is essential that the one who writes the biography of a philosopher report its philosophy in an undistorted mode. This is rarely the case, either because the narrator is not a philosopher or because he is not a clear prose writer, or even worse, because he wants to simply subsume a particular philosopher’s thought under that of another, more to his liking. Historicism may get turned into abstract Platonism, never mind the intention of the philosopher and what the text itself and the interpretation of its frontispiece. This operation has been attempted with Vico’s New Science.

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History: Man. The Life of R.G. Collingwood by Fred Inglis

Only an autobiography consistent with the philosopher’s understanding of history and re-enacting a philosopher's work historically, allows us to get to the core of his philosophical difficulties unhindered by the artificial abstract fusion of life and thought often found in the biography of a philosopher. The danger of such fusion is that the life of the philosopher begins to overshadow his philosophy and a bizarre cult of the philosopher, rather than an understanding of his thought, begins to appear and flourish. Just to mention one example, it is well known that some of those who ardently promote and defend Leo Strauss’s philosophy in America have formed a sort of Masonic cabala, complete with secrets and relics of the master; manuscripts of the same are passed around classified with “for your eyes only.” That, I suggest, goes a long way in explaining why Collingwood relegated biography below history. It is through history alone that both Collingwood and Vico’s philosophy can be kept alive, as indeed the very title of Inglis’ book amply suggests.

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2

Diary of a Confessional Poet
A Presentation by Abigail George

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Anne Sexton: Pioneer of Modern Confessional Writing

Dizzying and introspective. My limbs soon became antiques with their own mood.

There are frozen tigers behind the red brick walls wearing a flock of suits. Soon they will fly away for winter will be upon us. You are frozen mother. I am frozen and what a pair we make. Take me to the sea. It will do me the world of good as if I have never seen anything like it before. It is as if I have never loved anything quite like it in my life before. I know of it. I know all of it. The weight of water is different from warm bathwater. It knows me well. I reach out to its swell country and it feels as if my hands do not belong to me anymore. I write these haunting, beautiful stories. I write them for you, a stranger. A person who will never read them. What is the use of it all, I ask myself. To write about emptiness, pain, to build an empire out of them. To call it skill or dying. Any voice in this world can be sensual or exploited but it is hard luck to be forgotten if all your life you have tried to be remembered as flowering.

The psychoanalyst said. To be at peace with yourself is to write. Write anything but just write. Write words. It does not have to make sense at first it is just important that you write what you feel and write down what you think. How can anything that is graceful and elegant floating body also have insane quality to it make any sense? You will find yourself there. On that page, that is where you will find yourself. There is a taproot even in your vein. The psychiatrist said. You can have that family. You can have that husband and those children with the angel shine on their faces. Why do you not study further? Give it a go self-portrait girl. I glide into rooms of my childhood home on madness as if I planned for this to happen. A bipolar life. I fall. I fall. I fall into the dawn’s light.

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In childhood, I was loved. I took this love for granted and thought I was always going to be loved. I thought that the perfectionist in me would always be loved and that would be enough for me but then I went out into the world and discovered that women were many things besides the obvious. Besides being manic-depressive. In childhood, my mother was the sun and when it set on me Kafkaesque, I thought that love set on me too. There came a pilgrimage after that. The survival kit of living with mental illness lit up inside of me. I would imagine Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton eating bread and cake. Their children eating pink watermelon. The Easter bunny in their eyes. Manic-depression can take you imagination. Somehow, your body will be damaged. Caught on dynamic hooks that will programme you but still you must do the impossible. You must love yourself.

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You must minister love to yourself. If no one else can in those moments when the illness is at its most predominant you must. Write what you see. Write everywhere you go. It will soon become second nature your studies of human behaviour. Your observations. Respond to your mother with love. Respond to her with kindness even if it is the most difficult thing in the world. I think that every writer in their own way leaves their mark on this planet in what they write about and it usually is confessional even though that is not what they would call it. I do not feel quite as if I have arrived yet. It feels as if I am always saying goodbye. I am not invited to weddings (thank goodness). I do not go to funerals (one does not need to be invited to funerals). Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. The dark is like a veil. It is as if we desire the same thing. To go forward. To make progress. The dark veil appears at the door covering its host’s face. I choose my grandmother as the host. She told me not to waste the mind that God gave me.

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In a concrete city, parents who moved furniture in the rooms of my childhood home. I wrote with his hollow marshmallow Easter egg next to me. All I could see was Easter light. The romantic tyke with his little shark teeth marks in the orange marshmallow and white marshmallow. I can still imagine the hollow Easter egg in his hands warm from his touch. His hands brown, sticky and warm. His sweet breath in my face spoke to me in plurals of winter. I buried my face in his golden curls so he could not see my tears. How hard it was to let him go. To return him to his people. The house is past. You speak to me in plurals. You speak to me in plurals of winter. If they only knew. The elixir’s will. That I was a self-imposed exile, Queen Fear in a sea of monkeys locked in the boneyard.

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There are lifelines in stages. A concrete garden. Chronic city. Life flying solo. The intimacy of death. The land of somersaults. I am no longer in any one of those stages. Topography. I do not entertain kind of man. Do not wish for any kind of explosions in the night sky. Do not wish for echoes or any kind of fireworks. Women who are writers have to do readings. The intellectuals make love pressed against a man. Women who are writers have to go to book launches. Make love pressed against a man. I do not know how to do any of those things anymore. I do not know how to be brave. I will never be a bride holding the first draft of a manuscript. I will never be a Cinderella hiding her poetry away when her children come looking for her. A Cinderella believes in ephemera. Not in filmmaking.

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Women become mothers. They say please touch me here. Hey Lolita, hey young girl! When an intellectual kind of woman makes love, they do not necessarily become mothers. Women make love in order to have sons and daughters. They make love in order to become mothers. It does not mean that they become better people. Kinder, nursemaids and that the ashtray, the single malt whisky disappears. She sees a sea’s in the roaring fireplace. Destroys correspondence. Letters from her mother, her diaries. Cinderella gets her prince in the end. I will never be the wife making hungry introductions. Making lists. Making grocery lists. Doing the laundry. Re-reading Lolita. Women need a cave, an escape. Like any ghost, kind of woman women need an exit route.

Is the sea not beautiful this time of year? It says things like, ‘do not be cautious.’ This was Ingrid Jonker’s sea. I inherited it the archipelago. The mass of the architecture. Wrapped the weight of the muse of water around my legs. A slush pile, a scapegoat. The news of it has reached my parents by now. My parents who are married but separated. I could have written a letter but I did not. Not that it did not cross my mind. My heart was starved. Words was all that I had left. It was a pale September. I left the bed dishevelled. My tousled unkempt hair. An otherworldly atom feed welcomed me inside the sea. The sea poured itself into me, my wet hair. How my lungs ached for air. Gulls screeched. Potbellies full. Sun gold dust. Sand gold dust. Then I was lying down in darkness. Famished in a temple.

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The coroner came. They took a memoir of my thumbprint. I was no longer a warm human body. Instead, I was a floating body. They spoke politick. Once upon a time, I loved two men. One was the fireworks, the fields, farms of the sun. The other the echo of the pitch-black craters of the moon. One had pageant eyes. He could turn me on like a mental trick, a swimmer river deep, a pretty switch, a halo, tungsten wrapped in an Edison’s light bulb, the heat, a guise of Bollywood costumes, the stone heights of the sea, paltry conversation. The second had Scottish ancestry. The second studied at Ohio State University. In the end, I wished it were more than illness and disability that would separate us. Renal impairment was a boulder. Mental illness was a feast of a mountain. Every night after that was a stony night. Every year after that was a stormy year.

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In a gathering of people, there were kindred souls and the folk of spirits that had simply withered away to nothing so they could not be blessed anymore. There is nothing to forgetting about this. You can love or forget them. That is the one choice that we have in this world. To love or forget how to love. How to thread your catalyst and theirs with the unfathomable treasures of the world, the unthinkable storms that we weather and the unimaginable waltz. I did not mean not to love you. When I did have you all my arms wanted to do was protect you. All I wanted to do was hug you to my breast as if you were my own but fate was an open door. Always reminding me that I had no right to you. No right to sons and daughters. I think that is why I love the sea.

It calls me beautiful. My iron man.  It does not belong to me completely. It does fill me up with the capacity to love it and then leave it. I am used to the silence that seems to wrap itself around me when I inhabit its glorious space. I live in it if that makes any sense at all. I live there. It writes about its cultural differences on my body. Calls my hair a lotus flower. I pitched a tent and called it childhood. I just never found the morning’s hello interesting enough. I love you boy wonder and I always will. The only time I feel alive is when I am suffering. Our mums are our first triumph. Thought is a garden always asking us if we have ever been here before.

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Plethora. Farewell Atlantis. After midnight the hour of blue, my father ate fingers of ham. There was grass, sky everywhere and then I woke up remembering everything and nothing at the same time. When I was young, I believed in love medicine. I believed the sunset with this medicine and rose with it. Of course, now that I am an adult I do not believe in it anymore. As much as I believe in the Sussex man or my father’s London experience. I do not want to believe in hurt although how much it exists life says I must believe in it. I would rather believe in the death of all things especially the death of hurt when I look into the trusting, innocent eyes of young child. A child as old as my nephew. I wonder will his dreams be as scattered as mine was once. Will life scare him half to death or give him the will to live.

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I wanted to leave childhood intact. I wanted to be a girl all of my life but then I grew up. You had to be a woman or else. You had to be assertive or else. You had to grow up very quickly. You had to be loved, married, have children, raise them with the same values that your parents raised you with. All of this had to make you happy. For a long time I measured myself, my moods with the illness, or with the bulimia, or with starving myself. It did not have a name yet. I consoled myself with that. I could tell myself in time this would heal everything. Poetry could heal. In the end, I knew that even that was not true. It was just a journey and the journey was just a future. Something that I could look forward to. A future self who was no longer misrepresented or misunderstood. There is always me, I, she and her. They are all fighting for existence.

I never was properly in love. I was so much more in awe of them. The empires they built. How together they were. The blue blazer. The denim jacket. The starchy shirts. I knew I had to leave home but I did not know when or how. I was a late bloomer. My parents were also my friends. I confided in them. My father confided in me. My mother kept me at a distance. After the royal wedding. Without thinking, she looks at herself in the bathroom mirror. Disrobes while thinking of the cancers in her family, Mrs Dalloway. I knew she was sad. This sadness had many names, faces and elegant costumes. Her love for me would come when she cooked a meal or cleaned my room. Did my laundry for me. When she turned her face away from me when I screamed at her to leave me alone. This I guess was what a mother’s love was. She bought me magazines. Perhaps she felt sorry for me.

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Sorry I was not beautiful like she was or my sister. Perhaps she thought that I had missed something. Missed life. I did feel lost. I felt solitude and I felt futility. She made me feel special. I think in a way her love for me was extravagant. It was my anchor. There is a mirror and when I look into this mirror, my flesh melts away. All that is left is a skeleton. Life is a gift, Ethan. Life is gift my boy. Take it or leave it. It will break you and when you are falling, I will protect and keep you safe from harm before your total and absolute collapse from fear. Nothing in life is wasted so love. So do not be afraid to love with a passion, live with empathy, yearn to write like Hemingway or be honest because if karma does exist if you are honest it will never, ever lay its hands on you or covet your soul.

Virgil. Put Schindler’s name at the top. Next to English mustard, sardines, pasta, and love tearing through netting. I can still smell his skin. His flesh has become my own. Fall in love I did. Close myself off to all others. There is magic in a chicken feast. Vincent into the sauna of the sun. The turquoise ritual, oldest art form known to man of the sky. I saw a mountain’s shadow. I remember what it was like to swim in the ocean and that was enough for me. The sugar coated marriage where sun met sky. Mrs Patterson taught me moral lessons for beginners and interlopers in English classes of Muriel Spark’s Miss Jean Brodie. I remember the canvas of my father’s handkerchief in his pocket. When he went to church on Sundays. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

 sy00078

Bathwater. His fingertips feel like Braille. I know that feeling. He is very proud of his haircut. We talk about how to repair the mother-daughter relationship. He anchors things like islands inside my head. What more could any girl ask for? To have someone put her on a pedestal and worship her. There are two worlds for someone who lives with bipolar. The sweetness, the goddess of life which is known as or called reality. It is the insane world that burns away at the afternoon delight of your childhood. It takes away everything that you remember and replaces it with spite, and thoughts of suicide become substance. How to eat animals, people and memoir.  A white glove. A cab driver. Grape juice. She was still childlike. The baby of the family. Innocent of family life. Names and faces float away in a drug-induced haze. There is so much pain. What to do with all of this pain? You cannot share it because no one can or will understand. Your loved ones, your family can only stand by and watch your unholy demise. You can read the unhappiness on their faces.

The more you love. I could not feel empathy for her because I was not yet born. I thought it was only me. The filmmaker. You can wish all you want but you know that the damage that you are causing is yours alone. You do not have an explanation for this fog. She is not there. She is missing. Your sister. You know though you will not be good for anyone. You know you will not be good for domesticity. You know you will not be a good mother. In other words, you will not be good for a man. History wilderness. I am without a home. I cannot face the sun’s fugue. Without self-portraits. I grew up sheltered. It rained today. It could storm later on I thought to myself. Then I grew up and called it a wreck. I am so very tired life and I have not even begun to live it. Hips, throat, dress. They have not begun to live yet. I stand weeping. Peacock blue. Go see the world, she says. Forget all about her. While meat, tea and icicles shoot through my heart. It has a thick veil which is poisoned red with the fast machine of pharmaceuticals.

A South African bushveld. Breathing lessons. The waterfall’s dust is a mythical beast. The lover says ‘Do not talk back to me.’ A novella of sleeping pills. It is autumn now. I cannot conceal the war in my heart. The needles. I cannot make them smaller and smaller and smaller than. Winter is nearly upon us. In that suffering you were brave, spirited. Yes, you were the brave one. You never wrote me long, boring letters. You never complained or cried. Kwazulu-Natal. Post-apartheid South Africa has opened my eyes. Childhood. Why such beauty? This matchstick parade. Must have an exit route. There is a UFO. I do not know why I felt like nothing in your life. A ghost in your life. I am helpless, hopeless, yet still devoted to you. The needles are long and thin. Murderous in the wrong hands. The nurse does not smile. I am in a ward of hell. The needles and the nurses have their own manners. There is a torment and a storm, a justice in it all.

Clay and scarlet feathers. New Brighton’s walls. New York’s skyline. My Zen hands must communicate what I think. I am here on earth. Women suffer for beauty. You are silent. I strain for every word you speak. I wait for you to say, eat up. It is good for you. Our father and our mother taught me everything that I know. What is this punishment? This terrifying din. Are you my nemesis? Is this what is meant by the arrival of education, fire in Bosnia, bitten, peel? People feel alone in different ways. The husband has dog-eared memories. Wings will help you. I must not forget truths. Oil on the canvas. I am the last runaway. I am Hemingway’s, Rilke’s divine secretary. A feast of peace is in majority. A rich content inextricably bound for practicalities and sincerity. I have left the radiance of childhood behind. Sunsets and the service of stars. Demonstration and the goodness of activities. I supply gifts to you. I learn to love God as he loves you. Spiritual maturity is when we become Christ like. There are no visitors for me.

Human stain. The keys to Sputnik. Originally, they were the seed my mother sowed. More than a stain. When we become like Christ. When we let go of the world. When all is gold. When we are morally bankrupt. Estranged and eternally useless. Gone is Siven. Gone are the passages. There is nothing more perfect than love. I love books. I have always loved books. When opening them up I am always transported to another world. I either love the people in them or hate them. Autumn trees in Canada that makes waves on the rural countryside. On the landscape. As large as the Buddha. With or without blue intensity. Although I know in the end, I will never give them up to the world ever again. They will always be mine. So I am always careful in choosing what I read. I cannot throw anything away. So I hoard characters and personalities and the house or rather my imagination becomes cluttered. I would not want it any other way. In everything I see, I search for childhood.

The telephone. I check my messages. They are like the anchored taproots exotic shoot that is loved while I walk around intact. What is wrong with that? I feel I have lost something. I must get it back. I know I never will though. Those happy days are gone. It was just particular moments. A particular moment in time. Strangers come into your life with a certain kind of clarity and then they leave. Some leave without saying goodbye like your sister. They will come with their river of dust.

Dramas. Slavishly while the insomniac was sleepwalking through the priorities of the history of violence. Stalled with dread. They will telephone but when they phone, they will only speak to your mother and not to you. You will feel loneliness acutely and speak nothing of it as if it has nothing to do with you. I thought I would always be young. Yes, I would be young forever. Youth fades and when I came upon this something hurt deep inside my chest. There was a thud-thud-thudding that would not go away.

The landscape. A boy was shot today. A rival gang shot him. They thought he was a drug lord. The morning passes. Now I know what that was. There was a scarcity. There was a lack of. Everything is an illusion. Perhaps light is also an illusion. The glare and the illumination of it all. I know now that most of all that loneliness is an illusion. What does loneliness really mean? The casting off of something. To me it is a shroud. It is just a part of life. It is just a part of hunger.

Drinking a red cappuccino. Every man is a philosopher. Every woman is a mother to a child who is not of her own flesh and blood. Literature is family to me. Nothing more and nothing less. In the end you cannot protect yourself from love or empathy. It will grow on you. The symbolism of it all. Sometimes I can feel my bones. All the days that I spent in loneliness without her. What does I love you mean, does it mean more than I love her. I loved her not. What do we call each other as adults? There are times that I long for her.

Entrapment by a windmill. I want my childhood back for good. My world has all gone up

In flames. In smoke. I realised what worth meant. We so far removed from each other now. We used to sing songs. Make up ballads of the Khoi clan. They were made of origami. We made them real. They existed before time just like we did. Given ancient valentines. Marching into oblivion everyone. So this relationship that existed before time. I learned to live with emptiness as a sheltered and over-protected child.

Daddy’s ghost. The celestial under moonlight. While the refrigerator shone a spotlight on him, I made a list. A grocery list. I learned to live without regret and bitterness. These were good things. Prizes. This relationship that existed before cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, renal impairment, depression, suicidal depression, mental illness, hypothyroidism. I have to be vigilant even when I am gardening. Look at how my garden grows in the heat. Dirt on my jeans.

Hitler’s preposition. God and Germany. Kidney beans. Bread became a myth. Soap grew wings. Spread them and flew away. So now, she has become a woman. She is a romantic. She is important. She is significant. I am not important. I am not significant. She is extraordinary and I am ordinary. I am left hungry at the dining room table that our mother used to plate Sunday roast feasts at. The chicken tastes like water to me. It is like some kind of beautiful stature.

Foe. Tea, fish and meat grew limbs anchored in dust and emails. Tragedy speeded up. A madness weather. The juices are running dry but I do not want any of it. Love has a beginning but it has no end. I know that by writing down what makes me unlucky, feel miserable will perhaps help someone not to feel unlucky and feel miserable at the same time. You know I was an inpatient at a mental hospital.

Beautiful mother and daughter. On the computer. They both love each other. They are both in love with the love story of each other. I was one of those people who could not understand the difference between reality and madness. I was often filled with despair. I often asked myself when this hardship would end. I remember how people looked there. I remember how people looked at me. I remember how I had always been unhappy with the way I looked. How I wanted a nose job.

Parachutes. Her autumn flesh in the photo album is ripe for the taking. It was her wedding

Day framed by shell. Who persists will win. Will be the hare. The perfect wife will have the perfectly inspired life. I could not live a life of making homemade pizza and cleaning the refrigerator. The light always disorientated me at the hospital but it made me feel safe. Hospital life is no different from family life. Both are pilgrimages. They make you ask what your inability is.

Stars began to fill the night sky as a newlywed. Sometimes she cried. Mine was sanity or rather is the word that I am looking for insanity. Both spell either the end of violence or the beginning of it. Lucid dreaming. Psychosis. Manic-depression. Hypomania. I felt pain but I also knew that I had to survive or else. Journals and diaries saved me. Writing saved me. My parents saved me.

The swimming pool. Afraid. Lonely. In the all girls school’s indigenous garden. In the posh clinic. I feel cold because. Shock and fear is what I remember most in the hospital. Being touched and not being touched. Drawing observations of people, of doctors, of psychiatrists. Of how I began to take things for granted. I remember what it feels like to be competitive and a perfectionist all over again with my brother and sister at the swings.

Do you feel the same? Be heard in any room of the house. I watched leaves fall. They suck the beauty out of everything. I know now that I should not take them for granted. The same way that they take me for granted as if I would always be there. The familiar ruins me. Men have ruined me but I am still left standing. Does this make me brave? Can I at last call myself a stalwart? There is a great dislike in people calling me impressive. It does not mean that they love me.

Have you heard about? Pain is a manifesto. It is a translation. I am getting old. Translations are sincere. Becoming a sacred contract. It does not mean that they even like me for who I am. I am always trying to show them in the best possible way that I can that I am worthy of their attention, their approval and their love.  There is my world. It is a lonely world. I must have courage. I must be brave. I must motivate myself to write. If I do not do all of these things whom will it be left up to do to do?

The doctor’s reasons Tears. A kingdom of sobs. The drowning girl is a saint after her pilgrimage in the searchlight. Crows trapped there behind. Beauty will fade but I do not know if intelligence will. What does depression really mean? A pressure behind the eyelids. A fluttering of anxiety in your stomach. A panic attack. Feeling frightened or scared to death. Emptiness. Dreaming of the past. Flashbacks. When I write about it, it sounds beautiful. Nothing about it in reality ever really is.

Bone. For a little while. The light marks what we cannot see in the dark. The Eiffel Tower. Oil on our hands. The poetry is filled with anticipatory nostalgia. It is a lovely and warm material. It is a beautiful dress. It is filled with desire. I am not all of those things. Pleasure, loveliness, warmth, authenticity, the being of nostalgia, anticipatory nostalgia. I know that when I write in a journal or a diary it only prolongs the bewildering depression. I cannot wish it away. Of her disability, she says nothing. The journalist’s inexperience is starting to show. Like the fine lines around her mouth. Her crow’s feet. Without smiling. She says, ‘Goodbye.’ Asks when the article will be placed in the newspaper. Later she takes a bath. Still life. She’s sitting smoking a cigarette during the interview. The journalist is young. She thinks to herself. At that age she was already aware of her sexuality in ways this girl – ingénue would probably never be. On her mental illness. Her anorexia, her depression. On her desire to be thin, on her desire for the boy, Virgil sitting across from her in the room where they received guests. She is waiting for flowers. She is not particular. Driftwood. Books taste like sea light. Coming up for air before anything wounds us.

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3

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No Man Is An Island

By John Donne

No Man is an island, entire of itself;
Everyman is a piece of the Continent-
A part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the Sea,
Europe is the lesser;
As well as if a Promontory were.

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Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

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 4
THE NARCISSISM OF CONFESSIONAL WRITING
By Nikos Laios

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A photograph by Nikos Laios

I
Νάρκισσος

"I, ME, MY"

In Greek mythology Narcissus was a handsome, beautiful youth, a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia in Greece, who was the son of the river God Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was proud and rejected all who loved him. Narcissus was walking in the woods one day when the mountain nymph Echo saw him and fell deeply in love with him and followed him. Narcissus felt that he was being followed and asked loudly; "Who's there?",and where Echo responded with; "Who's there?".

Narcissus rejected Echo's advances, and where Echo became melancholy and heartbroken, and spent her time thereafter wandering in the lonely woods where nothing remained of her but the sound of an echo. Whereby Nemesis - the goddess of revenge - upon hearing of this tragic story decided to punish him. She led him to a pool, and upon seeing his own reflection - and not realising it was only an image - feel deeply in love with his own reflection. Unable to consummate his love for himself, Narcissus committed suicide.

Where this poignant melancholy of the unfulfilled and unrequited love of the self turned Narcissus into a beautiful flower which was named after him; the Narcissus. Like so many archetypes that where born from the timeless, classic and universal well of Greek mythology, a syndrome called Narcissism was named after him. Where Narcissism is the egotistical and vain pursuit of the gratification and the self-admiration of one's own attributes, and the concept of overt and excessive selfishness; whereby the concept of narcissism now also applies to the social and cultural problems of our modern day world. Where every relationship is defined by the need to acquire the symbols of wealth; a perverse hedonistic and soulless dystopia.

It is in through this prism of this narcissistic 'selfie' age, of the adoration of the self via photographs taken of oneself by mobile phones that floods the pages of social media, of long ranting baseless, egotistical confessional diatribes on these same pages that pollute our modern day and age.

An era marked by confessional television shows such as 'Oprah Winfrey Show', 'Dr.Phil', and 'The Jerry Springer show. Where people air the dirty laundry of their own personal lives in one big ego-driven exercise in a public, psychological, pseudo-cathartic masturbation. Then in recent times we have reality television shows like  'Big Brother', 'Keeping up with the Kardashians', 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills', and 'Teen Mom'; self-absorbed examples of the apogee of the culture of the confessional.
 
This then brings us then to the literary genre of confessional writing, which is a phenomena that has been made popular in the 1950's through confessional poetry. Confessional writing is marked by the usage of the first person tense of 'I', 'my', 'me', etc. It is a genre whereby the writer uses the first person tense to discuss him or herself in a very open and candid fashion, expressing their personal hopes, dreams, fears, nightmares, feelings and personal angst. The majority of the literary and academic community dismisses confessional writing as self-absorbed and egotistical.

The eighteenth century French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his confessional work 'Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau' stated; " I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature and the man I will portray is myself ".

The rise of the narcissism of the self in the later half of the twentieth century is tied to the erosion of     the traditions of the enlightenment and the classical world which have been bequeathed to us; namely the universality of knowledge, wisdom, truth and learning, where the traits of detachment and objectivity - which renders a more complete, accurate and holistic view of the world and universal truths - has been jettisoned for a subjective, personal dumbed down view of the world.

Philosophy, truth and knowledge have been abandoned for a beer-swilling and vulgar diet of confessional popular culture. In a relativist post-modernist world truth and knowledge have become relative to a group or people; the odious particularism then filters the intellectual traditions and the universality of knowledge through the interests of a particular demographic, sub-groups, sects and peoples. This cheap instrumentalist age only sets a value to art, culture and education where they can contribute and enhance some kind of wider financial gain to society.

This latest genre of confessional writing therefore has been spawned from within this context and milieu of this mercenary dumbed-down age where consumerism and materialism promotes selfishness and the consumption of the self as the paragon and virtue of a society, in a morbid dystopian world.

Does confessional writing have a place in the world?

A new tradition on the one hand cannot be so utterly dismissed altogether, for autobiographical books by famous and seminal persons have marked the history of a particular age or century such as politicians, artists, musicians, activists, revolutionaries and so forth, can be quite didactic regarding the history of their age. The use of the first person tense of the 'I' certainly also works when placed in the mouth of say a fictional character in a poem used sparingly to highlight a theme, or for a brief extract of confessional writing to be used and embedded into a piece of serious writing, whereby the author needs to flesh out a particular episode in their life to buttress and support a logical argument in their work.

In literature, the accepted rules of writing etiquette dictate the use of the "I" should be used sparingly, or if not at all. Where the confessional writer discusses in the first person tense their own life and feelings; and when the subject matter of their own life is exhausted, what else can they write about? There are billions of people in this beautiful world of ours, each one of them with their own wonderful and unique experience of this world, and of its trials and tribulations. Were they all individually write about their lives in a confessional manner, the world would be flooded in an ocean of the trivial minutiae of their lives. It is when a writer sees this ocean of humanity all flowing in a continuous stream reaching back into the mists of time; and sees the overarching big picture of the narrative of humanity, that a story then becomes interesting, timeless and unique.

Confessional writers therefore by their very nature, psychology and history of their genre, are mostly relativists and particularists who select pieces of knowledge like morsels from a sushi-train only where this knowledge relates to them, and particularly applies to their sect or subgroup. Be they machismo writers, fascist racist writers, environmentalist writers, ethnic writers and feminist writers: for they all from an intellectual and philosophical aspect -lack credibility or authenticity by the very usage of the forms of confessional writing, regardless of how honest and serious their intent might be.

The reason that these particularist/relativist confessional writers frankly lack any credibility, is due to the the fact that when knowledge is interpreted through the personal subjective prism of the self-interest of a particular sect, people, sub-group or sexual orientation; wisdom, sophia, and true knowledge loses its value; and only when the scope of vision is widened to include the universality of the whole can one dive into this to pick up and gleam gems of wisdom. For only through the time honoured tradition of the humanist enlightenment of the studying the classics, and a rigorous learning of the timelessness of universal truths and knowledge can one transcend one's era and millennia, to gleam an epiphany and a vision of universal truths.

The majority of writers are schooled in the timelessness of the writing craftsmanship of literature that has developed from the Homeric period of Ancient Greece, right through to the two millennia to modern Europe, and their European offspring who have populated the Americas; and where most are diametrically opposed to confessional writing. For when one attempts to read extracts of confessional writing - as this writer has attempted to do - one starts to read the first few paragraphs, and simply does not bother to read the rest of their work because they are frankly difficult to read, long-winded, ranting, laborious, lack of a clear precise rhythm in their prose, lack of the use of a narrative; and most all the 'I' ' that fills their writing is not only nauseous, but rather self-indulgent and egotistical .Where confessional writing is filled with the fatiguing "my mother", "my father", "my childhood", "I", "me", "myself."

A writer must separate himself/herself from the,'I'; must separate the expiation of their own latent psychoses via confessional writing from philosophical content. For only when philosophy is separated from the subjectivity of the confessional can the transcendent timelessness inherent in truths continue to flow not only through our age, but in the future ages to come to enrich as all.

Where effective and timeless writing needs to be dialogic and didactic; that uses narratives and the third and second person tense, and where prose and poetry are secreted and overlaid into pockets and alcoves to beautify and immortalise the underlying wisdom of a piece of writing; and where most importantly of all,  writers must underpin their work with a hypothesis, with a logical argument, and be able to discuss and prove their views and where a writer must be equipped in all the various literary tools of craftsmanship    - this is good and effective writing.

There are many confessional writers out there - and some whom at times happen to be friends or a acquaintances of conventional classic writers, and whose paths cross in the world of writing; but in striving to maintain the legacy and craftsmanship of the art of timeless writing, one must leave the ego at the door, speak the truth and not be afraid to offend. For only by questioning the ordinary and the mundane in a brave and in a Socratic manner, can one hope to continue this tradition of literary craftsmanship forwards into the ages to come.

Imagine if Hemingway, or Fitzgerald wrote in a confessional manner? Or if Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Dante, Homer, Euripides, Sophocles, Lawrence, Kafka, Miller and Kazantzakis all wrote in a confessional style of writing? No one would have ever read their works, because they would have all been simply pedestrian and ordinary writers. For they would have all then become like the tragic and beautiful Greek mythological figure of Narcissus, for ever absorbed looking into the pond at their own reflections, and wrapped up in their own 'self'.

II

THE JOURNEY: AN EXPERIMENT IN CONFESSIONAL WRITING

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A painting of Narcissus by John William

As it is the position of most writers - including this writer - who are opposed to confessional writing; the thought strikes the mind, what If one where to attempt to write a piece of confessional writing, would it be any good? Would it hold up to the flow, structure, logicality and beautiful aesthetic of a conventional piece of writing? Would one feel a little like a giggling teenager writing private thoughts in a dairy? This idea struck me one late Sunday night catching a train to back home to Sydney after a weekend away in a quiet surfing town, and the experiment then began.

The train started and sped along the tracks gliding through the forest cloaked by blackness, stars twinkling in the heavens above the canopy of trees, arching over carriages enveloping them in the clear minted breath of the forest as it traced its way up the coast to the city along majestic cliff-tops overhang the shimmering sea.

Shining pools of moonlight dancing on the waves, the train flashing past sleeping suburbs and creeping vines that hovered in back yards drooping downwards towards the soft, moist earth. Millions of lights twinkling in millions of bedrooms, houses and streets; an electric grid pressing down upon the city.

There were three or four people scattered in the carriage; one reading the paper, or the bedraggled hikers quietly discussing the forest hike and bible camp they just came from; I inhabited the same space as them in that carriage, but I might as well have been miles away, I couldn't feel their presence.

I lost myself for awhile reading the first chapters of Jean-Paul Sartre's novel 'The age of Reason', set in the summer of 1938 about the life of philosophy teacher Mathieu Delarue and his circle of friends set in the cafes and bars in the neighborhood of Montparnasse in Paris, and his pregnant girlfriend for whom he was trying to find the cash for an abortion.

I was reading while comforted by the lulling muffled clickety-clack of the train hurtling towards its destination, and I fell into my solitude in a warm cotton wool embrace, and the thought of Mount Parnassus in Greece flooded my brain, brought on by the Parisian suburb of Montparnasse in Sartre's novel, which was named after that mountain in Greece.

The images of satyrs and maenads, gods and nymphs dancing inside the coolness of my eyelids; those ancient, magical haunted mountain slopes with the cypress trees jutting into the night like some elongated figures in an El Greco painting. These competing images washing over the narrative of the Parisian setting of Satre's 'The Age of Reason'; the two sets of imagery fighting for dominance over my consciousness.

The haunting silhouetted mythical Grecian setting against the lyrical leafy boulevards of 1938 Paris. I like how words did that, how they evoke different ages, feelings and thoughts, and transport one to another time like a magical carpet ride.

The lights started to flash by rapidly and clustered more thickly past the train windows as we approached the city centre, like the warped, chaotically splashed luminescent brushstrokes of a Jackson Pollock painting. I stared, transfixed by the whirring lights flashing by, when my attention  was brought back to the inside warmth of the carriage, and the muttering conversation of the passengers. They might as well have been wobbling gelatinous masses held by skins like balloons; they meant nothing to me, I felt nothing from them, no solidarity at all, not any human fraternity, or  consciousness emanating from them. We were all small fiefdoms and city-states, each person self-contained and self-engrossed within the reality of their own individual consciousness.

I arrived in the city and walked through the midnight streets of North Sydney on my way home; walking through tree-lined boulevards, and empty malls with shuttered shops and overpasses weaving though stone and cement shortcuts with the delicious competing flavours of Indian, Mexican and Chinese restaurants vying for my undivided love and attention; and at that one moment, I felt my solitude and it was glorious.

I was one with that cool dark night, and those last brown and orange autumn leaves that trembled on the branches, falling in swirling eddies tumbling over cobblestones, or the glowing red and blue neon company signs standing like sentinels or street hookers on top of office block buildings, the empty bars or the sole 7 eleven store on the street corner.

I love walking in the city at nights; through empty city streets, colonial stone buildings like twisting, sweeping Picasso or Rodin sculptures lining the corners, or the empty glass towers with their geometrical lines erased by the night and their internal cavities now exposed to the darkness, like the organs of a glow-in-the-dark fish - orange, red, green and yellow.

The city was my mistress, and I was immersed in my solitude, yet I felt all the millions of consciousnesses pulsating, sleeping, thinking, loving, crying, dying, pushing against this city, against my consciousness; and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Then the thought occurred to me, were they free? were they living authentically with freedom, passion and rebellion? Was there any other way to live, any other way to fashion a meaning and definition for oneself? This was the only recourse save from an utter capitulation, which was never an option as I wanted to battle life and wrestle with it, fashion my own imprint on the Galaxy.

The silver key found its welcoming home, as I jiggled it slightly, opening the door to the familiar warmth and contours that I loved so. The brimming bookshelf, and the sculptural bust of Pericles looking down benevolently upon me, or the print of an Andy Warhol painting, or a print of Marc Chagall's painting  'Paris Through The Window';  as I threw the house keys on the shelf, and poured myself a glass of red wine, and fell back in the couch sinking into the cushions, listening to the first strains of George Michael's rendition of 'Brother Can You Spare a Dime', and sank back into my consciousness with a smile at the memories of the day's journey that  mingled and washed over me with the notes of the melodious song, and I thought how fortunate that I had created so many more memories that day travelling along the road.

Then I contemplated the thought that lingered in the beginning of my journey about confessional writing, and upon completing the composition of this particular example, wondered how it had turned out? In analysing this experiment in confessional writing, the writer counted twenty uses of first person tenses of the "I", eight uses of "my", and four uses of "me". It is far more preferable to use beautiful imagery, prose and narrative either in a fictional short story, poetry or embedded into a dialogic piece of writing.

This writer then vowed that this was the last time that confessional writing would be used; that no matter how clean and crisp the prose is, no matter how lyrical and beautiful the prose, poetry and imagery is; that the usage of the first person tense downgrades the quality, clarity and the timelessness of the art of literary craftsmanship that has been bequeathed to us from a tradition spanning three thousand years, that confessional writing is a passing fad - that like all other fads - will come and go, hopefully along with the other cultural trends and phenomena of this self-indulgent narcissistic 'selfie, 'Big Brother', reality television age.

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5

A Comment on this Meeting’s Presentations by its Coordinator

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Once in a while two or three articles are published together in the same publication that ensues in an explicit or implicit dialogue. It’s somewhat like an Hegelian dialectic: thesis + antithesis = synthesis. This philosophical-literary phenomenon usually takes place when the articles are imbued with arête, the Greek designation for excellence. Indeed, that may the case this time around. We have three thought-provoking presentations on the issue of confessional writing which obviously are not in perfect harmony with each other but nevertheless seem to complement each other and encourage a profitable dialogue between their authors and perhaps even between its editors and readers too. Can they produce a synthesis? That remains to be seen.

Nikos has shared with us a circulating relevant view that modern confessional writing is not something wholly positive and admirable. There are some powerfully punishing words in your critique. Indeed, the controversial nature of confessional writing is well known. The critics’ concern seems to fear that it may encourage self-preoccupation and narcissism, blunting the ability to commiserate with the plight of others with different obstacles to overcome, or worse it may blur the more universal and common destiny of human-kind. Moreover, what is pointed out in Nikos’ presentation is the problem of universalism vs. relativism; that is to say the danger of falling into relativism when grounding all of one’s existential problems in the I.

Indeed the I is what the father of modern philosophy, Renè Descartes, bases his whole philosophy upon: “I think therefore I am” and is what most existentialist philosopher emphasize. This is indeed a legitimate philosophical-humanistic concern worth exploring. On the other hand, it can hardly be denied that confessional writings have an innate nobility going back to the famous Confessions of St. Augustine (already explored in a previous recent separate Ovi article: see  http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/12204).

We could mention here many other confessional writings by both men and women over many centuries since St. Augustine. They have become part of general classical literature; three are examined in the first presentation in this issue. There a crucial distinction is made between diary writing (real or imagined), and autobiography which has a different nature: the former explores the self in its interiority and uses writing as a form of therapeutic healing, which it generally is, even when it is not consciously so, and the second explores one’s intellectual and/or spiritual life in all the significant events (interior and exterior) of one’s life and one’s human relationships in order to better clarify them and determine their significance and meaning  both individually and collectively. As we clearly see with St. Augustine, confession becomes a way of re-establishing one’s relationship with God and then with one’s fellow human beings; a way to instruct the reader on how she/he may do likewise.

On the other hand, we have modern writers such as Giovanni Verga who in his short stories never uses the pronoun I because he feels that it would detract from the objectivity (the “verismo”) of the story. He felt that a short story should appear to have written itself, like a photo that reveals the object without revealing the photographer. The first photo taken by Nikos indeed follows that advice. The second picture is a painting and a work of art and here the artist needs to be mentioned; to hide the self who painted it would not be fair to the creator of the painting.

So, as Rousseau and Vico believed, it is possible to write an autobiography without mentioning the I, in as much as the self is universal to all human beings. It is the self or the I or the super-ego which distinguished us from brute beasts even if Freud advises us that we also possess the id in common with them. On the other hand, Dante does actually start his journey by mentioning the I, but it is important to notice that such an I is preceded by an “our”: “In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood…” So the I is needed in an epic narration, for individual experience does count for something and it may be unique to the narrator not replicable; we all live individual lives and die individual deaths; nobody can die for anyone else as we have seen in the last symposium, but even death can philosophically be conceived as experienced by a universal I underpinned by the common destiny of human-kind. When Dante writes “in the middle of the journey of our life,” he is intimating that the journey is universal to each particular life. That is in fact the reason why we keep reading the Divine Comedy some eight hundred years later.

But there is more than meets the eye here. Besides the distinction between diary writing and autobiography; there is also the distinction between confessional writing written by women and that written by men. That brings us to the crux of the issue that remains to be addressed and explored in greater depth and is best seen perhaps in the writing of a feminist, and an African feminist to boot, such as Abigail George. What Abigail’s writing seems to have implicitly explore is the basic unfairness of admiring and encouraging men’s confessions and autobiographies while denigrating those of women as somehow inane, whimsical, melodramatic, self-absorbed and even trivial. Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever critiqued St. Augustine’s Confessions as melodramatic and trivial but many women’s confessions have unfortunately been so critiqued.

So, as mentioned, the three presentations do carry an implicit dialogue with each other, at least it seems to me that one has been initiated. It is to be hoped that following some more reflection on the issue, a serious conversation will ensue and continue in the future yielding relevant philosophical fruits. It has been said that a philosophical dialogue is like the splitting of an atom: it may lead to powerful unexpected results. After all is said and done, the search for the truth remains the foremost openly declared purpose of this symposium’s participants from its very inception, albeit within the confines of cultural anthropology and the perennial Great Conversation of humanity.

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 END  OF 51st SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (07/05/2015)

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Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting - 33rd Meeting -

34th Meeting -35th Meeting - 36th Meeting - 37th Meeting - 38th Meeting - 39th Meeting -

40th Meeting -41st Meeting - 42nd Meeting - 43rd Meeting - 44th Meeting - 45th Meeting -

46th Meeting - 47th Meeting - 48th Meeting - 49th Meeting - 50th Meeting - 51st Meeting -

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