So I thought I was clear about all the panels I wished to see. But then when I fell down the escalator’s last three stairs, because of my fucking 12 pound lap top, the 5 inch heels, and the anxiety of getting my phone back at the restaurant (the most gorgeous place, wonderful food in an elegant high-ceilinged dining room, all glass windows on the water), I realized I would be unable to attend Barney’s funeral today in LA.
The plan had been to drive up to LA this morning and back down. So I completely missed that Paul Guyer (I have written about him before, he’s pretty much the most famous philosopher right now in America, at least in the Kantian tradition and he is an editor of Cambridge University Press of many books of Kant, including the 2000 edition of Critique of Pure Reason, with Allen Wood, another huge Kant guy, along with Henry Allison. Guyer’s book about Kant’s aesthetics, 1979, is a seminal work–Kant and the Claims of Taste–and it’s central to my understanding of aesthetic response in the dissertation’s first chapter, as well as my notion of what Eliot is up to in what I call her “fictional project.” In part, this has to do in my view with writing a kind of philosophy (she was a philosophical writer, on a professional level, and translated Strauss’sDas Leben Jesu, as well as the impenetrable Hegelian work by Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity. )
These were both laborious tasks, which she survived in part due to her constant and intimate correspondence with her adolescent friend, Sara Hennell. She remained friends with Sara until her death but according to Gordon Haight, legendary Yale English professor and loving, devoted editor of her nine-volume George Eliot Letters (no surprise there, as Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book Library houses the largest US collection of Eliot letters, along with letters and drafts of her husband’s work, including George Henry Lewes’s Problems of Life and Mind, which Eliot edited after his death), Sara suffered from religious monomania toward the middle and end of her life and became almost impossible to speak with in a coherent and rational manner.
Remarkably, I never even saw the letters when I was there, living in my sophomore year, in a single in the North Court of Berkeley College, literally 60 feet away from Beinecke! And all my trips in 2010, something would come up and I would not get to go. So my trip there in March was absolutely wonderful, though I did get a parking ticket I’m trying to pay without the citation. I also got to eat at Scoozi, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the country, next to the Yale Rep. I took pictures but forgot to post them on FB.
I did not get really invested in Eliot until graduate school, though I did read Romola, her one historical novel (the Renaissance), my senior year in college. There is something profound about handling letters she wrote, but Haight’s letters are meticulously accurate and there really is no reason to use the originals in her case. With other authors who have less devoted editors, I am sure it’s useful.
Unless you know about 19th-century British literature or have a particular interest in Eliot, most people don’t know that she didn’t even take up fiction until the middle of the 1850s (she was born 1819). She wrote for journals like Les Belles Lettres, reviewed everything from fiction to poetry to philosophy (all kinds) and was an independent writer, especially after her difficult but intelligent father’s death.
Now that Kay, my first ex-chair with whom I had a sad but not tragic experience which is not all her fault at all (unlike the one with the second ex-chair which prevents me from finishing the dissertation), has finally after years and years come out with her study of Eliot (and Austen), she may have preempted whatever of value I had to say about Eliot’s philosophical roots. I do think , though, my focus is more on Kantian aesthetics than hers, but she’s a brilliant woman and very deep thinker. Honestly, it’s too painful for me to read her work but I’ll man up and buy it one of these days. I have about 13 books on my list so I am in no hurry.
“First ex-chair reminds me of Stakeout 2, a silly movie of which I am quite fond with Dennis Farina, a wonderful actor and by all accounts an unadulterated asshole to work with, when Marcia Strassman, from Welcome Back Kotter and so much else, gorgeous ultra-skinny blonde I knew peripherally in the 1990s, goes with her mobster-friendly husband to eat at the rented home of Richard Dreyfuss, Rosie O’Donnell and Emilio Estevez, all undercover) and Dreyfuss introduces Gina (O’Donnell) and then Estevez as the song of his “first dead wife.” Of course he’s nervous and anxious because he thinks inviting the people you are staking out for dinner is beyond ridiculous and stupid. And Gina, the prosecutor who makes hilarious animal-shaped appetizers, has concocted elaborate back-stories which she forces him to memorize. So when Strassman and Farina are alone, she turns to him and says, “His first dead wife?!?!”
Academic and mentor relationships are like marriages. And when they go South, they go really far South, like South of the equator South. I talked to a philosopher of language the first day, also philosophy of mind, in South Carolina and told him my story and he said, “You’ve really had a lot of bad breaks!” (meaning SB, UCSB, two professors with whom I was truly friends, not just colleagues or mentor/mentee with whom I have no relationship, one truly despising me, the other wishing me well but having no desire for ANY interaction and yes, she wrote me an extremely rude email as if I didn’t understand the first “no” to being a reader if I found a chair. Bad breaks? Yeah, no shit.
So I guess I just didn’t read all the wonderful panels for Friday , knowing I would be in LA for the funeral. So, I’m dying and crestfallen about this. I cannot go out for drinks, stand up at cocktail receptions or just mingle at the hotel. I am going to have to have a wheelchair today and I’ve never used one. I mean, I don’t even know if I will be able to haul myself around the hotel or if the guy who didn’t comp me a room at the stunning Hilton Bayfront–after flirting with me and giving me his blazer to cover up my legs when the dress flew up during and after the fall with my body splayed on the beautiful granite floor–is going to be any more of a help making this conference which means so much to me, not a total and utter disaster from here on out.
On top of it, I lost in the fall a bangle with manmade diamonds on top, which I love and can replace but still. It’s not that expensive and it did have a defective clasp, but once it got jammed it never fell off so all the money I saved on Jetblue ticket (339 for a week in early June, which now, if I’m in a cast, I should be able to change to another week with a hospital/doctor note), will go to its replacement. Lovely. This truly handsome, bald, blue-eyed, tall, muscular man in an elegant suit was nicer than the other corporate anti-lawsuit goons who descended upon me en masse (better than a large Wagnerian mother, I suppose, in the wonderful song from My Fair Lady, “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?”). I mean they were all nice, but they were nice, as Mom pointed out, not because of me, just because they wished to avoid liability and they took pictures of everything: my shoes on and off, the esclator, my foot, my legs…
So here is the Hegel panel for today. (I am hoping the Vicodin will target the pain and I will be up for three hours of Hegel. It hurts now, really hurts and I screamed out in violent pain last night when on a bathroom break at 3AM , I accidentally put some weight on my foot and involuntarily shouted out in anguish.)
Invited Symposium: Hegel
Chair: John McCmber (UCLA)
Richard Eldridge (Swarthmore College)
“Hegel as a Philosopher of Modern Art”
Karsten Harries (Yale, he’s been there since I was there at least, never met her, never studied with him.)
“Two Views of One Temple: Either Hegel or Heidegger!” (This is going to be amazing because I love Geoffrey Hartman’s third major book on Wordsworth–The Unremarkable Wordsworth–and Hartman (the subject of my senior essay for Paul Fry on Wordworth’s critical reception) has a chapter I absolutely adore, “Elation in Hegel and Wordsworth,” which I have cited almost countless times since I discovered it in 1995 (the book is 1988), and another I like a lot, “Wordsworth Before Heidegger,” I think it is called.
If I had not been stupid and graduated in three rather than four years, I could have luxuriated in the philosophy department more, even short of a true double second major. I have heard she is truly extraordinary.
Fred Rush (Notre Dame)
“The Contemporary Significance of Hegel’s Aesthetics.” (Of course I read his main text for exams, but I haven’t thought about it for years).
Kathleen Wright (Haverford College)
“Hegel and the Problem of Chinese Aesthetics.”
Robert Stern (University of Sheffield)
“Unholy Wills?: Kant and Hegel on the Struggle to be Good”
Wow, other than the Chinese aesthetics, about which I know nothing and am not all that interested in, this is an amazing panel with huge people in the field.