Monday, September 20, 2010

rilke for a tired monday

I have a few previews with which to entice you. The first is a little piece on Alma Mahler. I've been reading a perfectly horrific biography wherein the author reduces her to the following identities: virgin, (painted) whore*, femme fatale, and sex-crazed narcissist. Like I said, horrific. My argument will essentially revolve around the opportunities squandered by the author: the life of Alma Mahler offers an opportunity for an investigation of fin-de-siecle Vienna, an epoch thick with cultural flux. Alma's "life and times" provides the reader with a (feminine) lens through which to examine the complex culture of the Viennese cultural elite.

Second, I am currently enrolled in a course on comparative biography (note preceding paragraph). Our first seminar was filled with cerebral exchanges, sic et non, and even a confused, bumbling description of the performative by the Lady Artistic Director herself. As an aside, when someone asks you to explain performance (in the Butlerian sense), do not, ever, start by shooting your mouth off about Austin. Please. But that is neither here nor there. Once my mortification passed and I resumed my role as self-depricating (and silent) dumb-dumb, I couldn't help but reflect on that proverbial elephant in the room: the author. Obviously, you have to talk about the author in a seminar about biography, but all the historians in the room seemed extremely uncomfortable when the topic was broached. For free-wheeling, untethered students of the humanities (such as myself), questions of authorship are asked and answered with fervor and without any hesitation. But last week, It seemed as though the historians were hard-pressed to speak to their relationship to their research, their authorship. The conversation brought me back to Barthes and inspired me to revise a (proverbial) little ditty I wrote on Cindy Sherman. Because no one loves Barthes more than the late 20th century photographer.

For now, I'll just invite you to visit this post from the SOF (or Being, I should say) blog. A wise woman once said that Rilke has a tendency to sound "new age-y" when translated into English. Though I cannot speak to what the original German sounds like, I appreciate that this particular translation makes note of this, and in turn, offers something that to my ears sounds not so (in the parlance of our times) "hippy-dippy."

And listen to this when you read it, okay?

Figure: DFD

Edit: Speaking of identity and authorship, I am not bothered by what might be inferred by my referencing Speaking of Faith. Incidentally, this is all on the heels of reading Peraino's exceedingly smart (dare I say "devilishly smart") essay on Dido and Aeneas, "I am an Opera: Identifying with Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas" wherein the author posits her own identity as central to her argument. If you get a chance, please do read it; the means by which Peraino appropriates the methodology of the nineteenth century humanities scholar is both effective and clever. Consider this another preview of coming posts....

*Referencing Artusi's description of modern music (he's talking about Monteverdi). Gli italiani sono buffi.

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