some quotes from Keats and Olson


picked these up from Tom Clark’s Charles Olson biography, The Allegory of a Poet’s Life.  It’s the last unread English language book I have in my apartment now, apart from a pediatric medical reference book, which doesn’t really count because it’s more of a reference book.


“They are very shallow people who take every thing literally.  A Man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory– and very frew eyes can see the mystery of his life– a life like the scriptures, figurative– which such people can no more make out than they can teh hebrew Bible.  Lord Byron cuts a figure– but he is not figurative– Shakespeare led a life of Allegory: his works are the comments on it–”  John Keats to George and Georgiana Keats, Feb. 14, 1819.


“These places and persons as things and spots are all inside any one of us… the whole world and all experience is, no matter how real, only a system of metaphor for the allegory (Keats called it) a man’s life is.  Charles Olson to Robert Duncan, Aug. 24, 1955.


“One does have a life to life, exactly that much.  And… because it is that much and it is one’s own, it has a scale.  That is, it isn’t more of the same, or so much ‘humanity’ and all that, any of the counters now offered…  How to say it, so that it is abundantly clear.  It isn’t at all unlike Keats’ proposition that a man’s life (he was speaking of Shakespeare and his plays) is an allegory.”  Charles Olson, The Special View of History.


This characterization of biography as allegory is interesting in that it hints at the existence of some deeper text upon which biography as allegory relates to/ comments upon.  What might that deeper text be?  Maybe the set of all ideals, all desires– a sort of utopia text that may be partially revealed or hinted at through right action.  Perhaps this is where justice lives in politics.

Perhaps this is what Pinar hints at in his piece in praise of study.  That is, biography is somehow the key that accesses and opens up this revolutionary practice.  Or was it Rorty who emphasized that biography is at the root of such struggles.  Maybe both.  God I gotta take better notes!


Henry A. Giroux: Can Democratic Education Survive in a Neoliberal Society?


Assuming the role of public intellectual suggests being a provocateur in the classroom; it means asking hard questions, listening carefully to what students have to say and pushing teaching against the grain. But it also means stepping out of the classroom and working with others to create public spaces where it becomes possible not only to “shift the way people think about the moment, but potentially to energize them to do something differently in that moment,” to link one’s critical imagination with the possibility of activism in the public sphere.

via Henry A. Giroux: Can Democratic Education Survive in a Neoliberal Society?.

Henry Giroux is a Canadian and American who teaches at MacMaster University in Hamilton, ON.

Really great “slightly vitriolic” piece here from Henry Giroux.  I love the connection he makes to the imagination here.  The quotation within the quotation here refers to:

A Conversation between Lani Guinier and Anna Deavere Smith, ‘Rethinking Power, Rethinking Theater,” Theater 31:3 (Winter 2002), pp. 34-35. Copyright, Truthout.