Commonplacing, January 2018

“It is precisely because one does not want to lose one’s status as a viable speaking being that one does not say what one thinks” (xix-xx).

“Our fear of understanding a point of view belies a deeper fear that we shall be taken up by it, find it is contagious, become infected in a morally perilous way by the thinking of the presumed enemy” (8).

“It is not as if an ‘I’ exists independently over here and then simply loses a ‘you’ over there…If I lose you, under these circumstances, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who ‘am’ I, without you? […] I think I have lost ‘you’ only to discover that ‘I’ have gone missing as well. […] What grief displays…is the thrall in which our relations with others hold us…a relation that does not precisely reduce me to speechlessness, but does nevertheless clutter my speech with signs of its undoing…Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something” (22-23).

–Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2006)

“However, a public that shudders at train wrecks, that is familiar with earthquakes, plagues, revolutions, wars; that is sensitive to the disordered anguish of love, can be affected by all these grand notions and asks only to become aware of them, but on condition that it is addressed in its own language, and that its knowledge of these things does not come to it through adulterated trappings and speech that belong to extinct eras which will never live again” (75).

“But there are too many signs that everything that used to sustain our lives no longer does so, that we are all mad, desperate, and sick. And I call on us to react” (77).

“We are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all” (79).

–Antonin Artaud, “No More Masterpieces” (Theatre and Its Double, 1958)

“The tragic situation becomes grotesque when both alternatives of the choice imposed are absurd, irrelevant or compromising. The hero has to play, even if there is no game. Every move is bad, but he cannot throw down his cards. To throw down the cards would also be a bad move” (135).

“[Ionesco’s] The Radiant City exists and does not exist, or rather it has existed always and everywhere. And that is why it is so terrifying. Similarly, the Shakespearean precipice at Dover exists and does not exist. It is the abyss, waiting all the time. The abyss, into which one can jump, is everywhere” (145-6).

“There are no longer kings and subjects, fathers and children, husbands and wives. There are only huge Renaissance monsters, devouring one another like beasts of prey” (153).

Jan Kott, “King Lear or Endgame” (Shakespeare Our Contemporary, 1966)

“…because [the Gothic] implies or demonstrates that these hidden depths could become visible, it creates a powerful interplay not so much between surface and depth as between surface and second surface…between what we see at first and the scandalous force of what could eventually be revealed” (411).

“Relationship, as it turns out, is a process of mutual preoccupation, such that each person carries one’s memory of the emotional state of the other, and, in turn, serves to inspire and produce further change in the other” (412).

–David Collings, “The force of indirection: ‘Tintern Abbey’ in the literary history of mood” (British Romanticism: Criticism and Debates, 2015)

“[Joanna] Bailie then argues that the subject or self can be constructed only in sympathetic relation to other selves, and that knowledge is produced, not from ‘objective’ or detached observation, but rather from empathetic identification, an identification that is then articulated through the stories we tell of what and whom we meet, what she calls ‘tattling'” (146-7).

“Bailie suggests that it is men who destroyed themselves through an excess of unchecked emotion and women who have the ability to free themselves from the follies and prejudices of their youth, to take up all standpoints, and to see a larger truth…it is finally the wise woman who combines national prudence with sympathetic understanding and thus acts best for the nation” (151).

Ann K. Mellor, “Theater as the school of virtue” (British Romanticism: Criticism and Debates, 2015)


Someone tells me: this kind of love is not viable. But how can you evaluate viability? Why is the viable a Good Thing? Why is it better to last than to burn?

– Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

I love no one but you, I have discovered, but you are far away and I am here alone. Then this is my life, and maybe, however unlikely, I’ll find my way back there. Or maybe, one day, I’ll settle for second best. And on that same day, Hell will freeze over, the Sun will burn out, and the stars will fall from the sky.

– Lemony Snicket