Losers


In Rage and Time Sloterdijk proclaims that militancy and apocalypticism are the ways for the “losers” to deal with their loss. This sort of interpretation makes sense, considering the historical circumstances and religious beliefs Sloterdijk cites and considers. However, if one returns to the first image of the book – the figure of Achilles – then one can see how Achilles and his thymotic rage is, for Sloterdijk, the way of the winners, even if Achilles dies in the battle. Achaeans are winners, Trojans are losers. The rage of the winners is the righteous indignant rage, the reaction of the losers is to transform their rage into revenge and eventually to create a vengeful god who will punish the winners in the end (that is to come).

One issue that has bothered me in Sloterdijk’s proposal (besides a lack of any references to Islam when talking about Jewish and Christian monotheisms in chapter 3, probably based on his assumption that Islam did not play any significant role in the Western European theology which is, of course, false) is that I am not sure if the “losers” back then were perceived as the “losers” today. Romans and Venetians traced their mythical origins to Troy, not Greece, despite of Troy’s epic loss and destruction – why?

65 thoughts on “Losers

  1. Isn’t key to this – and I have not read the book, but only reviews – the notion of the Rage Bank? Isn’t the understanding of the Thymotic Way (if there is such a way) understanding that the Rage Bank is what turns it all bad, so to speak. And isn’t the Rage Bank simply Nietzsche’s Ressentiment? (Don’t know if there is an explicit connection, but the idea seems pretty plain.)

    So, returning to Achilles as a figure, isn’t the point that he never really gets too deep into a Rage Bank scenerio. And he certainly doesn’t seem at all capitivated by Nietzchean Ressentiment. His Thymos and its excesses seems a bit different.

  2. Rage Bank is certainly created as a result of the “loser strategy” to find a possible release to the rage when no direct ways to do so are available. This accumulated rage becomes revenge.

    My point however was to wonder how it can be thymotically productive to align oneself wit the “loser” and not the “winner” or is it just a more subtle “survival strategy” of the losers?

    Why do Romans/Venetians chose Troy as their mythic origin when Troy is the sight of the most devastating loss of the ancient world?

    • The Roman’s could not possibly align themselves with the Greeks because they were taking over the Greeks. The Greeks were their political and cultural “enemy” so to speak. They had to invent their own heritage, so to speak. I also don’t think that the Trojans were seen as losers quite in the sense that they appear to us. They were simply those that the gods turned against.

      ME: My point however was to wonder how it can be thymotically productive to align oneself wit the “loser” and not the “winner” or is it just a more subtle “survival strategy” of the losers?

      Kvond: The point about ressentiment is that it creates a moral system which blames one’s condition on some external entity. One projects one’s rage bank onto something x, and thereby also relieves responsibility for oneself and one’s condition. It would seem that aligning oneself with the “losers” has a double edge sword. All that rage bank energy is there to harvest, but also the disempowerments of ressentiment perception also are usually in place.

      At least that is how it looks to me. There are thymotic benefits, but moral-perceptive pitfalls, pitfalls that are involved in the notion of “loser” in the first place.

    • It’s a very uneven book – opening sections about rage are interesting (at least in a sense of “hmm, interesting”) but as soon as he gets into “Wrath of God” chapter with the discussion of religion, it’s shockingly shallow and repetitive (and unoriginal, especially for anyone familiar with religious studies), then comes a spiteful and unnecessarily pissy chapter about the horror of revolution (Lenin and Mao were rage bankers and so on) which reads like a settling of scores with the Left. The final chapter reads like a more or less sophisticated version of “get off my lawn, stupid young and angry immigrants and Islamists” – it all ends with a semi-optimistic description of the disappearance of large “rage banks” and therefore of a brighter future of local rage battles.

      But there are very good parts, they are just not linked together into any sort of a mind-blowing theoretical whole.

      • I’ve read first two volumes – they are a load of very interesting facts, observations, but most a collection of discussions loosely tied around the image of a sphere (Blasen and Globen, bubbles and globes, in the first two volumes). It’s a great sort of a work of the most peculiar collection of seemingly unrelated things with some tangential discussions of this and that. Because the books don’t really have one overarching theory, they read well as precisely such a collection of things (with pictures).

      • I guess I read uneven books all the time, but just don’t really need to get into another “Big Thinker” that has positions I have to learn. Nothing past his cynical reason book has caught my attention and his declarations as a public intellectual just strike me as bullshit. Maybe like Zizek, except I think Zizek’s political committments are more or less right, so they get on my nerves less. Whereas Sloterdjik’s stuff on taxes, which he presents as revolutionary, are just typical German orodliberalism. Like a German Red Toryism. All this anti-State stuff is, well, pretty much the zeitgeist of contemporary liberalism, and with Sloterdjik you just get the impression he’s made a lot of money and doesn’t want it used by other people.

      • I would definitely skip this one then, not just in terms of not having time for another big one, but also because it’s only interesting to people working in this sort of “political affect” world and “critique of Plato” Nietzscheanism (not necessarily Nietzsche himself). Most of the stuff on thymos can be parsed from Hegel, Kojeve, Fukuyama and so on. There are no real original positions in the book, except for some interesting combinations of already existing positions.

        I wish book reviews would allow for a movie review style final recommendations: “Read immediately” – “Buy and read later” – “Don’t buy, get from the library and skim” – “Do not bother, it’s utter nonsense” – “Burn!”

  3. ME: “but most a collection of discussions loosely tied around the image of a sphere (Blasen and Globen, bubbles and globes, in the first two volumes).”

    kvond: Only a rave review of it would move me to try. The (often hidden) sphere analogy in philosophy is only less pernicious than the “vision” analogy in the history of Continental philosophy. I’m sure there are some interesting extensions therein, but all in all its not a best one.

  4. Mikhail, have you read Simone Weil on the Iliad? (Here.) She doubtless loves the sphere metaphor that Kevin finds so pernicious, (she being a retro-platonist), but she argues that the “subject”–she might even say the “hero,” I forget– of the Iliad is Force. In her mind, both Greeks and Trojans are losers. And there is some indication that even Homer thought so, too. I think when Telemachus is visiting Helen and Menelaus, he has Helen say something like, the Gods made all of this happen, so that poets would have something to sing about. In other words, what’s winning got to do with it?

    • skh: “when Telemachus is visiting Helen and Menelaus, he has Helen say something like, the Gods made all of this happen, so that poets would have something to sing about.”

      kvond: not to be unkind, but that is pretty scant evidence considering that it is about as peripheral as one can get to the story and its events.

      The problem with the sphere metaphor is that it is over-determined by an inside/outside binary which causes one to lose out on the meanings of force and how it operates beyond that binary. I COULD see force being the subject of the Iliad, but if so the notion of “winning” and “losing” doesn’t really apply.

    • Surely, everyone suffers in the story – Telemachus is of course basically deprived of his father and I love that scene in The Odyssey because it’s just so awkward for Helen to be there and for them to sort of chit chat about the whole affair, you know? I don’t remember the exact details, but didn’t Menelaus tell a story of how awesome Odysseus was while the stupid Helen was trying to tempt them by talking outside of the Horse? I suppose it was all forgiven and forgotten…

  5. Kv: “…pretty scant evidence considering that it is about as peripheral as one can get to the story and its events…”

    I wouldn’t have said it was central to the story’s events. But it suggests something about the meaning of the story. It’s as if Homer says: win or lose, all your heartache was merely destined for my song. Since this is one of the few places where one could almost say Homer tips his own hand (since here we see mention of the events of the war as subject for poetry), I tend to see this as very significant despite (or even because) of its peripheral nature.

    As to the sphere metaphor– I certainly grant that there are reasons to be careful with such metaphors and their implicit (sometimes explicit) ramifications.

    Re. the episode Mikhail refers to: As I recall, Odysseus even had to strangle one of the Greeks inside the Horse, who was on the verge of crying out in response to Helen.

    of course later, everyone– Trojan and Greek alike– was ready to stone Helen. Menelaus went charging into the palace, sword drawn, and found her. Then she showed him her breasts. The sword went clanging to the ground. All of that is in the background during Telemachus’ visit.

    Damn! They don’t write ’em like that no more….

  6. skh: “I wouldn’t have said it was central to the story’s events. But it suggests something about the meaning of the story.”

    kvond: Given that the event is from an epic that is almost assuredly NOT written by the author(s) of the Iliad (the argument for their being “a” Homer is seriously in doubt), and probably not even from the same century, reading retroactively from a small passage in the one, back into the other is pretty much absurd.

    • It’s not that big of a stretch, I think. Certainly the passage might not be a “key passage” but only a perspective, but there are plenty of evaluative statements throughout the epics. I’m thinking of many subtexts in the Iliad of the vanity of the whole affair, with soldiers (including Achilles) basically complaining that they have to fight and die for someone’s unfaithful wife.

      On the other hand, war is war in that it allows for glory and of course there’s plenty of glory in The Iliad. As for The Odyssey, I think that Shkoliast’s point might very well apply to it, considering the importance of storrytelling art in that epic (e.x. Odysseus securing his shipment home by telling long stories of his adventures to the good folks on Scheria)…

      • What is a “stretch” is using a passage from one text written by one (or several) author(s) perhaps even a century after to explain the intentful meaning of a text written by different authors previous to it, AS IF they one homologous work written by “Homer”.

        If you want to use citations WITHIN the Iliad to explain the meaning of the Iliad, feel free to.

        The complaints about having to fight for the honor of someone else’s wife are likely better understood as questions of Agamemnon’s primacy as an authority over Hellenic princes.

      • Agamemnon’s primacy is established by him being an older brother of Menelaus and the pact that Menelaus had with the Greeks before he married Helen, I don’t think anyone, including Achilles, really doubts it in terms of any sort of “legitimation crisis” – he’s the first among equals, and especially in the military context his role is solid.

        Certainly, I don’t see anything wrong with reading Homer as Homer, no matter how many authors the epics have. It’s one story, even if written by a hundred poets, and as such can be read as one story.

  7. Certainly, I don’t see anything wrong with reading Homer as Homer, no matter how many authors the epics have. It’s one story, even if written by a hundred poets, and as such can be read as one story.

    Yes, said that way, but this “And there is some indication that even Homer thought so, too.” might be somewhat different, mightn’t it? since “(the argument for their being “a” Homer is seriously in doubt), ” was, I thought not ‘seriously in doubt’ at all. A classics scholar who used to be one of my best friends and spent several years in Athens and Rome said it was quite established that there was not *a* Homer among classicists. I never asked him when people stopped thinking it, though, and did remember that Aristotle (in the ‘Poetics’?) always referred to Homer as if ‘he’ was ‘one man’. And he’d talk about the difference between the Homer of the Iliad and the Homer of the Odyssey, I believe, as if in terms of age and fatigue. I think that’s definitely supposed to be the case with Sophocles and the Oedipus Cycle, as he gets old, tired ‘n’ way-rey, as Bowie would say, but that was a known entity. So whether it makes sense to say ‘Homer thought’ I’m not sure. I suppose so, there must have been some dominant figures who pulled the whole thing together and all who worked it would have been bound in some common sensibilities. Haven’t thought about this that much, although I can’t think of any others , although there must have been some. Maybe this ‘group project’ disappears after a certain period of antiquity. Although I guess the Bible is like that, I don’t know who wrote what, frankly, of that, I don’t think Asimov talked about that part too much when covering it in this history he wrote, and I’ve done no Biblical history research.

  8. QoB: “Certainly, I don’t see anything wrong with reading Homer as Homer, no matter how many authors the epics have. It’s one story, even if written by a hundred poets, and as such can be read as one story.

    kvond. There are significant and incompatible stylistic, thematic, linguistic differences between the two epics. If you merely read them closely the Odyssey is not a “key” to the meaning of the Iliad. It is so ridiculous I cannot even comment actually. You might do better to read Sophocles to explain what Aeschylus really meant to say.

    QoB: “A classics scholar who used to be one of my best friends and spent several years in Athens and Rome said it was quite established that there was not *a* Homer among classicists.”

    kvond: I was trying to be generous. I have actually indeed read counter arguments but they are unsubstantive.

    QoB: So whether it makes sense to say ‘Homer thought’ I’m not sure. I suppose so, there must have been some dominant figures who pulled the whole thing together and all who worked it would have been bound in some common sensibilities.

    kvond: Making it no less sensible to say that some minor event in the Odyssey reveals the meaning of the Iliad. It is quite likely that at least a century separates their compositions. It makes sense to speak of a coherence of meaning, theme and point within one epic, book to book, character to character, but across epics makes no sense in the least. One cannot even compare Odysseus to Odysseus across the works.

    • I’m not reputing the scholarship, I’m just saying that as a reader of epic (as much as a listener of them would be), I don’t give two shits about the questions of literary analysis, the same way the readers of Deuteronomy didn’t (and don’t) care that it was not a book of Moses and so on. Surely, all of these issues are very important in out attempts to understand the epic, but I don’t care for this “Homer” argument, I care for the internal organization of the epics – despite all the awesome scholarly distinctions and fine points of style, language and so on, they like like two great parts of the same story and that’s all that matters to me as an amateur reader. If you ever studied, say, Old Testament, then you’d know this type of a student who would want to ruin everyone’s fun because he found out that in Hebrew the expression “And it was good” actually meant “And people died from laughter” – maybe, I say, good points, I nod, but ultimately it’s of no interest to me as a reader. I find the discourse of academic experts with their gigantic toolbox to be annoying for the most part when it comes to my favorite pieces of literature (the same way I hate obnoxious musicologists who think they have a key to music because they have some music theory expertise) – I don’t care if Shakespeare did or did not write Hamlet, I love Hamlet and will continue to do so, even if it is proven that it was written by an unknown John Smith. That was my point – the rest I delegate to Shkoliast since he brought up The Odyssey episode and I simple said it was plausible, as far as I am concerned…

      • Is this because you’re an ‘amateur reader’ of literature and ‘amateur musician’? Do you feel the same way about philosophy (if that’s a legit question, it doesn’t feel quite right, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it)? Because the scholarship about philosophers could be said to be ‘ruining the fun’ for us ‘amateur philosophers’ by having to know the history, couldn’t it? Not that you don’t have the right to bored with literary and musical scholarship, and definitely there is little worse than some musicologists and art historians.

      • I don’t think that literary analysis in this particular case is the only way of approaching the text. I am not suggesting we throw out all that knowledge, I’m suggesting that I personally don’t have to care about it when I’m reading the book. Would help it help me understand the epics? Most certainly. Would it help me enjoy them more? Probably not, because I like them already. Is having the score around while listening to a piece of music helpful and enlightening? Of course, my ear is not as good and I miss things I can see if I looked at the score, but, whether this is sign of amateurism or professionalism, I can enjoy it even if I don’t have the deep technical knowledge of “how it’s done” – that was my point.

        I think this applies to philosophy as well. Reading a book by a philosopher with a pile of secondary literature explaining what he says and why is very helpful, especially if I’m not familiar with this particular philosopher, but that does not mean that I can’t just enjoy the book on its own.

        Again, I’m not denying the value of Kevin’s knowledge of the scholarship, I’m not suggesting it’s useless. I’m simply resisting the notion that, while original audience members were able to “buy into it” and enjoy it without that knowledge, we cannot and must not. If amateurism here means anything, I think, it’s the ability to forgo technical knowledge and experience something as any other non-specialist would. Don’t you think that all the professionalism and awesome expertise sometimes kill the spirit? It happens a lot in philosophy, I think, when behind the piles and piles of quotations one loses the point of the exercise.

    • It makes sense to speak of a coherence of meaning, theme and point within one epic, book to book, character to character, but across epics makes no sense in the least. One cannot even compare Odysseus to Odysseus across the works.

      That is precisely what I was referring to, not across ‘the works’, but across the various authors who comprise ‘Homer’. Was that not clear, or are you just constitutionally difficult to talk to?

      • In her mind, both Greeks and Trojans are losers. And there is some indication that even Homer thought so, too.

        I was referring specifically to what skholiast had said, and that was within ‘the Iliad’. So ‘what Homer thought’ was a direct quote from immediately above, and that’s what I was referring to (obviously.) It’s also obvious that a general ‘what Homer thought’, if Homer is several or many figures’, is more doubtful or maybe wishful. I still wonder when the scholarship was done. If I have time, I’ll see what I can dredge up on that, as it’s pretty clear that in the Poetics, Aristotle seemed to be talked about one man.

    • Okay, I see where you got confused on that. I didn’t put quotation marks around Mikhail’s statement, which you then quoted as mine. I was musing on that combined with skholiast’s ‘Homer thought so too’. Or maybe that was it.

  9. ME: “Agamemnon’s primacy is established by him being an older brother of Menelaus and the pact that Menelaus had with the Greeks before he married Helen, I don’t think anyone, including Achilles, really doubts it in terms of any sort of “legitimation crisis” – he’s the first among equals, and especially in the military context his role is solid.”

    kvond: Completely and utterly disagree. The entire context of the strife is a question of legitimacy of authority that unifies the Hellenic peoples. Achilles as the prince of the Myrmidons has no inherent allegiance to Agamemnon, and the story is a story of the atrophy of Agamemnon’s authority among the Greeks. There is evidence that this also reflects real political questions, in history, as well.

    • Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. Of course no one has “inherent allegiance” to Agamemnon from the very start of the campaign – these are all independent rules from independent cities. He is the leader of the expedition and as such he has the authority, for example, to take away Achilles’ prize. Now I can see how the story, were it to concentrate on Achilles’ prize, could be about Agamemnon’s abuse of power in order to shut up Achilles and show him who is in charge, but the story stays with Achilles, not Agamemnon, unless I need another look at the book.

      • If you notice, the story does not simply “stay” with Achilles. He is the de facto “King” by the time of the Greek games (forget which of the latter books), where Agamemnon is hardly present. Achilles performs all the duties of a King, awarding prizes, making judgments of justice to such a complete degree Agamemnon’s “kingship” is effaced. It begins with Agamemnon is charge, so to speak, but the entire epic is a crisis of kingship, and its natural restoration under authentic authority. In the final scene it is Priam and Achilles meeting in exchange, King to King. If you watch the arc of Agamemnon’s presence and role you see that it decays, not just because the story is “following” Achilles, but because Achilles supplants Agamemnon who has been exercising mere “figurehead” power.

      • Sorry if this is picky but Achilles organizes funeral games for Patroclus as part of his mourning, thus he is in charge of prizes and judgment of the competitions. There’s no reason for Agamemnon to be there in a “kingly” role of any kind. That part of the story all confirms their ultimate equality as partners in the campaign, but Agamemnon is still the leader of the expedition and I don’t think he ever loses that status in the Iliad.

  10. Don’t you think that all the professionalism and awesome expertise sometimes kill the spirit? It happens a lot in philosophy, I think, when behind the piles and piles of quotations one loses the point of the exercise.

    OF COURSE. I’ve trained myself over a lifetime to be able to experience things directly, not taking for granted things that I just read in a review, for example, about how great some dancer was, realizing I wouldn’t even know which one it was sometimes if I didn’t know she was ‘the tall one’. I’m agreeing with you, in this case Kevin’s scholarship was simply interesting to me because it’s something I was introduced to unexpectedly. But then he writes about it in this piercing way that is not what Harman calls ‘uncivil discourse’, but just needs a change of tone sometimes. One doesn’t have to sound like a fucking disciplinarian all the time to display sound and interesting scholarship. I’d ask him more if I weren’t tired of too much pointedness (the Trocks Drag Ballet dancers are Men on Point, they do Swan Lake, you know) At this point, I just ignore matters of scholarship in favour of enjoying the experience, unless it just happens to be something that catches my interest. For me, it’s the opposite–I’m almost totally hedonistic about all experience, so if I find some historical matter interesting, it’s a relief from my, as Robbe-Grillet would say, ‘glissements progressifs au plaisir’.

    Probably the main distinction based on the evidence of ‘Homer’, etc., is that the two epics are widely distinct in more than the obvious important ways. But even though the audiences experienced Homer in ways we can’t, that’s always true. We can’t even experience Chopin the way it was when he and George were inhabiting elegant rooms in Paris.

    • QoB: “Don’t you think that all the professionalism and awesome expertise sometimes kill the spirit?”

      kvond: Yes, it is terrible professionalism to note that not only did a guy name “Homer” not write both epics, they were written at very different times in history, with very different values at stake. Terrible to force people to read closely, and not generally and fantastically. When people say things like “Hey, in order to read the Iliad correctly you have to see what Homer said in the Odyssey” does it ruin all the fun to say “Um, “Homer didn’t write either of these, and the Odyssey was written a 100 years later”. Is this “too critical”. Is this too “professional”. Come on. When I first found out that Homer wasn’t “Homer”, and then found out that these books contain numerous historical and thematic stark differences, I was thrilled. I found it more interesting, not less.

      • Look, kvond, LOOK at the fucking quotes and remember who said them, okay? You were talking about Dejan not reading the thread. If I forget to put quotes around mikhail’s statement I’ve made, that is no reason you should twice in 2 hours attribute them to me.

      • Is this “too critical”. Is this too “professional”. Come on. When I first found out that Homer wasn’t “Homer”, and then found out that these books contain numerous historical and thematic stark differences, I was thrilled. I found it more interesting, not less.

        Yes, and so did I. But that’s another example of kvondspeak, which I’m getting as allergic to as you are NYTimesSpeak. If someone else doesn’t want to look at it that way, it’s not necessarily something he should automatically learn to do–it’s not self-evident, just because you find it thrilling, or I find it interesting. Mikhail’s emphasis is actually the more important one, the excitement of learning the Homer isn’t ‘Homer’ is not going to be the main focus for everyone.

      • Great! Get a cookie for yourself while you’re at it. Did people who write Odyssey not read (were not familiar) with Iliad? Were they just creating a story without any connection to the larger context of the previous epic? Is it possible to imagine that, having been exposed to the previous epic, they would want to comment on it? What if they, many years later, decided to do so by putting their interpretation into the mouth of Helen? Does that help you understand what people thought of Trojan war? All of these questions are interesting and fascinating – you’re not the only person who gets excited about scholarly things. But answer me this: did you read the epics before you found out there was no Homer? Did you like them? That was my whole fucking point. Grandpa out!

  11. ME, as far as you not caring about “literary” analysis, and not caring that the books were written likely 100 years apart (or more), and making up your own interpretation about how some passage in the Odyssey provides a vital clue on what the writer(s) of the Iliad meant the theme of the Iliad tp be, what is one to say to this?

    I can make up my own interpretation and refer to anything I want in the manner of people who want to interpret Genesis through what is said in Revelations. Sure, go ahead, think biblically. Who is stopping you? Why should anything you have be asked to be justified by reasons or evidence if you just can make things up (as Bible readers regularly do). Yes, the Odyssey is the secret clue to what the Iliad meant, if and you want to understand the Odyssey you have to follow the secret clues found in Oedipus Rex, and if you want to know what the secret them of Oedipus Rex was for Sophocles, you must look hard at the first three episodes of Lost. There is no end to this fun.

    • The author(s) is dead, Kevin. I don’t care for authorial intention one bit in this case, especially since we’ll never know who they were. Authorial intention, if it can be determined at all, is but one witness among many. Even if an author comes out and says that he intended to say X, it still does not mean that it is some authoritative definition of the meaning of the text.

      “Making up your own interpretation” is precisely the fun of reading – everything else is boring technical writing. Your model of literary criticism and historical analysis is great, but your conclusion that if I disagree with you then it means I’m throwing it all away is ridiculous. It’s not “all or nothing” and these are not historical documents, these are literary texts and if a passage from The Odyssey throws light on my reading of Sophocles or Lost, then who are you to tell me that I’m wrong in making the connections? Were I to publish a book about it and try to argue my case, feel free to pick it apart, but I wasn’t not talking about writing books, I was talking about a simple pleasure of enjoying a text and its connections.

  12. QoB: “Yes, and so did I. But that’s another example of kvondspeak, which I’m getting as allergic to as you are NYTimesSpeak.”

    kvond: Let me tell you, as your doctor, stay away of things that you are allergic to. I stay far away from NYTimes-speak and read none of it, please do be invited to stay away from kvondspeak and avoid all my posts.

    • You see none of your mistakes, even the egregious ones, as anything you should take responsibiity for. It’s not that you’re uncivil, it’s that you’re overtly loathsome, and you seem proud of it. You call it ‘a fierce reasoner’, but that’s not it. You’re just proudly rude. I can’t stay away from your posts if I read this bleug at all, so you can just take that job as ‘doctor’ and shove it. And so you’re a poet, eh? Yes, sound like one, now don’t you, old boy? I can see that this tone (or monotone, since you never change tones) would be interpreted as ‘uncivil’ by Harman and Bryant, to me it just shows you have no range, emotional or otherwise (of course we know you think emotions are boring, so then, no poetic range, what-evah.)

  13. ME: “I find the discourse of academic experts with their gigantic toolbox to be annoying for the most part when it comes to my favorite pieces of literature (the same way I hate obnoxious musicologists who think they have a key to music because they have some music theory expertise) – I don’t care if Shakespeare did or did not write Hamlet, I love Hamlet and will continue to do so, even if it is proven that it was written by an unknown John Smith.”

    kvond: perfectly good point. But if it were so proven beyond a reasonable doubt and a great deal of evidence is brought out to show the differences, you should not sneer your lip if at cocktail parties you go around saying, “And the way to understand Hamlet’s crisis is to look at how Shakespeare handled the same topic in Romeo and Julliet, and someone has to audacity to point out to you that these works were written by different authors.

    • “So fucking what is they were?” I would say. “There are parallels between Hamlet and R&J, aren’t there? That’s all I am talking about” I would say. “You brought up the author and now you are yelling at me for not buying your points about the author(s)” I would say. “I never mentioned Homer(s) and the time of writing or the history of writing, all I said was that it’s not impossible to see parallels between texts and that the original audience did not care about the authorship or accuracy” I would yell. You’d probably be asked to leave after that.

  14. QoB: “You see none of your mistakes, even the egregious ones, as anything you should take responsibiity for. It’s not that you’re uncivil, it’s that you’re overtly loathsome, and you seem proud of it. You call it ‘a fierce reasoner’, but that’s not it. You’re just proudly rude. I can’t stay away from your posts if I read this bleug at all, so you can just take that job as ‘doctor’ and shove it. And so you’re a poet, eh? Yes, sound like one, now don’t you, old boy? I can see that this tone (or monotone, since you never change tones) would be interpreted as ‘uncivil’ by Harman and Bryant, to me it just shows you have no range, emotional or otherwise (of course we know you think emotions are boring, so then, no poetic range, what-evah.)”

    kvond: Wow, I can see that you ARE allergic to my “speak”. What is more civil than telling someone who announces that they are allergic to my “speak” than inviting them, indeed strongly advising them to ignore my postings. This is the most considerate thing one should do. What is better advice? To spew endless diatribes, to read constantly that which aggravates. you. Bryant turned my stomach, guess what…I stopped reading him. Problem solved. Harman too. If it interferes with your constitution, avoid it. Now let me give you something for that rash you are developing.

    • Shut up, kvond. You know what you are, but if you use terms like ‘rash you are developing’, then do be advised that one is not averse to calling you a loathsome eunuch. That you will not even take responsibiity for your misquotings proved your basic insincerity, and fantastic adoration of your jackanapes cutesiness. It’s like you put in a thumb, and pulled out a plum, and said ‘what a good boy am I’.

      well, of course it’s true, if I didn’t think Mikhail wrote good things (and sometimes the others too), I wouldn’t have to read your things, and that’s unfortunate, because you are intelligent and say interesting things. Unfortunately, you are quite anti-social in the very bad sense of the word. One would not want to have a drink with you, as you have no charm whatsoever, and you do seem to want to scrape yourself as clear of it as Joan Crawford did. Mikhail’s emphasis in these current movements is by far the more nourishing, of course. Yours, while informed and knowledgeable, has a kind of spiritual wizenedness to it, which knows how people must approach works. You don’t turn my stomach or give me rashes now that I know how you operate, by the way. The piercing tone you have cultivated, once turned back to its purveyor, is not very impressive as something to be feared or avoided. It just comes across as this ‘little something.’

  15. ME: “Did people who write Odyssey not read (were not familiar) with Iliad? Were they just creating a story without any connection to the larger context of the previous epic? Is it possible to imagine that, having been exposed to the previous epic, they would want to comment on it?”

    kvond: COMPLETELY. Perfect point, but VERY different than the one that skh. made. If you want to say that the Odyssey provides valuable commentary on the previous epic the Iliad, indeed this is a wonderful thing to say, and in fact a great way to read it. That way you can weigh this commentary within the context of the meaning of the work itself. But to pretend or claim that there was one writer who wrote both of them as one continuous work, and that the meanings in the latter work ARE the meanings in the previous one, is a mistake.

    • No one pretended to claim there was one writer – you brought it up. All I was saying is what I was saying in this comment. Your model of scholarship is too tight-assed, it’s too technical, it’s all either true or false, which works great for some disciplines, but, for crying out loud, there is an enormous corpus of literature dedicated to Homer and there’s no way you can ever create just one solid true picture of what is going on there, and that’s why it’s awesome!

      • “Your model of scholarship is too tight-assed, it’s too technical, it’s all either true or false”

        Yes, that’s it. It’s totally presumptuous, and written in a tone which assumes you’d be an ass yourself to argue with it. One should note that the excellent contributions are never noticed, the point is to sell one ‘truth’ as quickly as possible, it’s purely impolite and fucking badly-brought-up.

  16. ME: ““There are parallels between Hamlet and R&J, aren’t there? That’s all I am talking about”

    kvond: I know you don’t like talking about authorial intent, but when authors are different you treat parallels between works differently. If for instance RJ and Hamlet have parallels but there are substantive authorial differences DUE to different authorships, then the weight of these parallels fall differently.

    Come on. If Faulkner writes in motif in several novels you read these motifs differently than motifs shared across authorship, if you are treating a contemporary Southern novel. And even more so if you are comparing a Southern novel written 100 years after. This is pretty obvious.

    It doesn’t mean that there are no parallels, or that parallels are not meaningful to bring up, but their authorship, their relationship in time affects how these are read.

    If for instance Kant’s Third Critique was proven to be written by some student of his rather than himself, it would change its relationship to the other two. And the more you found out about this student, and his relationship to Kant would change how the Critique (and its authentic Kantianness) is understood.

    • Not really, Third Critique has ideas, it doesn’t matter if they turn out to be those of Kant’s disciple. They are still Kant’s ideas. There is no “authentic Kantianness” – it’s a romantic notion, just like your “authorial intention”…

  17. ME: “No one pretended to claim there was one writer – you brought it up. ”

    kvond: To MY ear this is exactly what was brought up when skh. brought up Wiel’s interpretation of the Iliad by reference to what “Homer” thought, exemplified by a passage from the Odyssey:

    “have you read Simone Weil on the Iliad? (Here.) She doubtless loves the sphere metaphor that Kevin finds so pernicious, (she being a retro-platonist), but she argues that the “subject”–she might even say the “hero,” I forget– of the Iliad is Force. In her mind, both Greeks and Trojans are losers. And there is some indication that even Homer thought so, too. I think when Telemachus is visiting Helen and Menelaus, he has Helen say something like, the Gods made all of this happen, so that poets would have something to sing about. In other words, what’s winning got to do with it?”

    I read this to mean that the “subject” of the Iliad is “indicated” by the scene of the visit of Telemachus to Menelaus, revealing what Homer “thought”.

    • I read it as “Homer the author” – he is the author, isn’t he? In the same way Moses is the author of the Pentateuch. People speak of Homer this and Homer that, don’t they? Will you interrupt every conversation about Homeric epic with an annoying “You know? Homer wasn’t actually the author” – everyone knows that! Can we move on now?

  18. QoB: “Shut up, kvond. You know what you are, but if you use terms like ‘rash you are developing’, then do be advised that one is not averse to calling you a loathsome eunuch.”

    kvond: Forgive me if you take up your generous analogy whereby you expressed your biological relationship to me as an allergy. Do not allergies produce rashes? Are you having other symptoms? Perhaps you should see a doctor. Or you can simply take my prescription and avoid ingesting things that make you itch.

  19. I’m glad you keep revealing what a little boy you are. It really was not easy to execute such a ‘recipe’, you know, but I’m known to be quite the Master Chef.

  20. And this, boys and girls, is why are are called “trolls”!

    Good night, everyone. This was fun, but there’s only so many times that I can say that I hate authorial intention in literary analysis, hate it, drives me mad, especially when some wise-ass author makes a joke like “Critic X thinks I wrote about Y, but I didn’t, I should know!” Everybody laugh at the stupid critic – good times…

    If you’re wondering, yes, it applies to philosophy as well. “Kant says he’s writing about X, how can you say that he’s writing about Y? Do you know more than Kant himself? How dare you?” Of course I know more than Kant himself, I have the luxury of several hundreds years of Kantian scholarship and he doesn’t…

    Roland Barthes is rolling in his grave for sure!

  21. ME: “If you’re wondering, yes, it applies to philosophy as well. “Kant says he’s writing about X, how can you say that he’s writing about Y? Do you know more than Kant himself? How dare you?”

    kvond: You are not quite so…well…”openminded” when Levi Bryant is telling you what Kant is writing about.

    And if you think that there is no DIFFERENCE (and that is what we are talking about) between what Kant wrote and what people wrote about when they are talking about Kant (either in criticism), what can I say, other than you likely are taking a position that is unreal as to how you operate in REAL life, wherein WHO says something is quite important to what it means.

    If you found out that all along “kvond” was merely a moniker used by Levi Bryant, everything kvond wrote, indeed these words themselves would take on a different hue.

    • We’re not talking about the meaning of the text, we’re talking about the authorial intention – are you intentionally this thick? We’re not talking about interpretation of the text, but about specific role so-called authorial intention plays in such interpretation. There are other elements that play a role in the act of interpretation, privileging the authorial intention is the dick move without any real philosophical justification. “Who” says it is no more important than “who” reads in “what” circumstances and so on…

      I actually wouldn’t be surprised if “kvong” was a moniker for “Levi Bryant” – nothing would change, it would be just another piece in the large puzzle that is interpretation of any text. Look, I have no interest in continuing this discussion as you clearly are unwilling to read what I write. Keep sucking at the big tit of authorial intention.

  22. ME: “I read it as “Homer the author” – he is the author, isn’t he? In the same way Moses is the author of the Pentateuch. People speak of Homer this and Homer that, don’t they?”

    Kvond: Honestly ME, I don’t get this, “we should read all literature they way that Christians read the Bible” talk. Yes, if you are of a religious belief that has connected all the content in one book of the Bible to another book in the Bible under one authorship (either it be Moses, or GOD), it makes very good sense to read Genesis via Mark or Romans. But why should we be “Christians” to the Greek epics? We are not Athenian Greeks looking to find one coherent meaning and message threaded through all else that buries all the differences. We actually know that different persons, times and values produced these two epics. That does not mean themes found are not important, but it means that the differences between them are not suppressed, or put subservient to the themes themselves. The differences between, for instance, The Iliad and the Odyssey actually may be more important or interesting than the similarities. This is what is acknowledged when authors, times and values change. The Bible does not become worthless when you figure out that it was not “written by God” in the authorial sense. It becomes populated with differences such that it makes less sense to conclusively say: “What is meant when x is said here in this book” is defined by, or made clear by when y is said here in this book” as if. When x is said in the earlier book, it proves better to look at the context of that book itself, instead of centuries later, in order to appreciate, yes, its intent, which is to say: why it was written.

  23. Not that it even matters, but I agree with Mikhail here, the whole idea of authorial intentionality seems kind of dubious to me (what a controversial assertion!), though that’s not really saying much at all. At the very least, it doesn’t seem to lead to very interesting or novel interpretative results…

    If I had to defend my reasoning on philosophical grounds, it’s clear to all of us here that the author and the text, as objects, never directly interact with one another, they’re always mediated by a sensuous vicar, like for example, a pen or pencil, and hence they engage in exotic withdrawal until the climactic moment of re-penetration.

  24. Kvond, I’m sure you mean well, but your twisting around of words is indicative of your own disregard for “authorial intention” – plus, you seem to be uninformed about the whole of 20th century discussions starting with structuralism, in addition to your continuous confusion of “meaning”, “interpretation” and “intention”.

    You sound like you were just let out of some cage – there is a difference between a rigorous questioning and being an asshole. You are being an asshole, because you refuse to read what is addressed to you, take out a small section out of context (no, not disregarding “authorial intention” but disregarding normal rules of interpretation) and run with it. You seem to be one of those insecure types that need to always establish their expertise in everything they say. Take a chill pill, brother!

  25. [drumroll]

    Let me announce our first official commenter ban: Kvond. I’m sick and tired of him. I spend hours reading his points and patiently replying to them only to see fractions of them twisted around with mostly uninformed sorts of “I’m a fucking genius child” aura to them.

    I don’t actually know how to ban the dude, but I’m making a symbolic gesture here. In 3 years since we’ve started in 2007, there was never anyone so annoying and so irritating in his absolute refusal to honor any sorts of rules of conversation. Levi Bryant is a fucking saint by comparison.

    I’m sure he’s going to post a long explanation of how I’m just like objectologists with their bestiaries and how I’m refusing to be open-minded etc etc. But everyone has their limit – mine is the realization that my efforts put into trying to understand and respond are disregarded when half the time Kvond can’t even tell who said what, since he’s so fast to make his responses.

    It’s a sad day in the neighborhood, but I’m sure Kvond will not be missed.

    The Office of Perverse Egalitarianism Asshole Affairs.

    • ‘The Office of Perverse Egalitarianism Asshole Affairs.’

      I like the idea of a real front desk in a real office for your secretary, perhaps played by Rosalind Russell. Or it reminds me of the old Perry Mason Gal Friday, Della Street. Could have one of those little name-plate things, which would be campier if it said ‘MISS STREET’ on top and underneath ‘RECEPTIONOLOGY & ASSHOLE AFFAIRS’.

  26. uh…. um…. gee, I just checked in here again to see what was going on (had to see to some ‘real life’ in the interim…) and I see from all the broken glass and furniture that my little mention of “Homer” stirred up some problems. I had a kind of bad feeling when I saw that there were”67 comments” or some such huge number. Sorry. Who’da thought dropping a cartoon character’s name would be so problematic?

    For the record, I didn’t mean to imply that there was some guy named Homer who wrote down (or even “composed”) both epics. I am familiar with the debates, and have read Parry and Lord, Ong, Havelock, etc. If I had said “the Homeric corpus”, would it have been better? Anyway, I really didn’t mean (if this even needs saying) to throw a molotov cocktail into the chatroom and then slam the door.

    This pains me, because as I said in the OOO thread, I really do respect both M and K as thinkers. Can’t we all just get along…? or do I mean: “Oh, the humanity…. “?

    • Unfortunately, Kvond does this all the time, it all starts with a nice chat and then he gets into his “I am always right, god dammit, I must show them all that I am” and before you know it it’s 5-6 comments a pop, most taken out of context nonsense… I tried to be friendly with him over the years, but it’s just not worth it, I tell you.

  27. Hope I’m not late, or repeating someone else: The Romans traced their origins to Troy, why?

    … the Trojan horse was given by the Greeks to the Trojans, when a figure called Laocoon spotted the ruse and threw a spear at it. He was punished by the gods. The Trojans then took this as a sign that they should accept the horse, and that was a big mistake.

    Only one Trojan understood that the gods punished Laocoon (having him strangled by snakes) because the horse was a trick sanctioned by the gods against the Trojans and on behalf of the Greeks, and that was Aenaes, who fled to Italy and founded Lavinium, an early precursor to Rome.

    The Romans traced their ancestry to Troy for that reason.

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