Friday, April 24, 2009

Meeka Walsh, quoting from writer Marilynne Robinson, writes of the “self” within the economic and environmental present:

“In the contemporary world of culture and media, constructing a self is seen as performative, almost a dupe, to be viewed with the skeptical distance of irony. That’s not what Robinson has in mind. She speaks nostalgically of a time when people had sensibilities. It’s a notion I revere but would wager it’s viewed as akin to connoisseurship, and how something as essential and interior as self or sensibility has been subverted so that it now rides on the surface, indicted, is an unfortunate trick of language and perception.”

“Robinson located this power – writing, narrative, the placing and extension of self – in time. Is it possible, she wonders, that time was created to serve or allow for narrative, for what she enumerates as, “event, sequence, causation, ignorance and error, retribution, atonement.”

“It is necessary, too, to go back in time, to mine the past – history’s and our own more immediate period. In recognizing history as relevant and essential, she suggests we revisit it. “It is,” she says, “all the evidence we have about ourselves, to the extent that it is recoverable and interpretable.”

“I agree with her sense that something has passed out of the culture; at the very least there has been a loss of civility. But I have no hesitancy or ambivalence in lining up with Robinson when she says, “I want to overhear passionate arguments about what we are and what we are doing and what we ought to do. I want to feel art is an utterance made in good faith by one human being to another.”

(from Border Crossings Issue #109)

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