Thursday, September 02, 2021

old and new. The Weber, from @humanprovince. I used a different translation.


In America there are comparatively few who are rich enough to live without profession. Every profession requires an apprenticeship, which limits the time of instruction to the early years of life. At fifteen they enter upon their calling, and thus their education ends at the age when ours begins. Whatever is done afterwards is with a view to some special and lucrative object; a science is taken up as a matter of business, and the only branch of it which is attended to is such as admits of an immediate practical application.


Always the same. The deliberate consciousness of Americans so fair and smooth-spoken, and the under-consciousness so devilish. Destroy! destroy! destroy! hums the under-consciousness. Love and produce! Love and produce! cackles the upper consciousness. And the world hears only the Love-and-produce cackle. Refuses to hear the hum of destruction underneath. Until such time as it will have to hear. 


There is a further difference between America and Germany. This is that in Germany the lecturer is less concerned with lecturing than he might wish. He does indeed have the right to lecture on any topic in his discipline. But to make use of that right is thought to show an unseemly lack of respect toward lecturers with greater seniority, and as a rule the "major" lectures are given by the professor as the departmental representative of the discipline while the lecturer makes do with ancillary lectures. The advantage of this is that he can devote his early years to research, even though he may not do so entirely voluntarily. 

In America the system is organized on entirely different principles. In his early years the young lecturer is completely overloaded precisely because he is paid. In a department of German studies, for example, the full professor will give a three-hour course of lectures a week on, say, Goethe, and that is all, while the junior university assistant will have twelve hours teaching a week, including the duty of drumming the basics of German grammar into students' heads, and he will be happy if he is assigned the task of lecturing on writers up to the rank of, say, Uhland.

On academia, also Turner, and Krieger, Arendt, Panofsky, et al. Wissenschaften. Also Veysey (I thought I'd written something on it. I can't find references on my computer. I bought the book. I'm betting I found it through a reference in a pdf somewhere without searchable text.

Another one from last year, which includes the above. It belongs here.

Interestingly, Chekhov was convinced his works could never be successfully translated. They would make no sense, he thought, outside the family that was Russia. Dickens, who wished to extend his family everywhere, was happy with translations. His work was hugely successful in Naples, where family reigns supreme, and was held up as a positive example by the government of the newly united Italy in its drive to promote domestic values and national cohesion.

Were there other writers, I wondered, for whom this hierarchy of values held, novelists whose plots, one way or another, hinged around belonging and its attendant emotions, however differently they might come at it—just as Dickens and Chekhov come at it differently, and position themselves differently, though obviously obsessed by the same questions and construing life in the same way?

Over time, reading and rereading carefully, I found these authors who fit the description: Virginia Woolf, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, George Eliot, Haruki Murakami, Graham Swift, François-René Chateaubriand. Many other lesser names, too, in genre fiction as well as literary. Many Italians, perhaps because I read a lot of Italian literature, or perhaps because the values of belonging are so powerful in Italian society. Dante, writing in exile, is obsessed with belonging; the deepest circle of hell is reserved for the treacherous, those who betrayed family and community.

On the other hand, I haven’t found a single American whose work I can place in this category. Does this tell me something about America? Or the limitations of my idea?


Jumping ahead, more from Weber.

For twelve centuries social rank in China has been determined more by qualification for office than by wealth. This qualification, in turn, has been determined by education, and especially by examinations. China has made literary education the yardstick of social prestige in the most exclusive fashion, far more exclusively than did Europe during the period of the humanists, or as Germany has done. Even during the period of the Warring States, the stratum of aspirants for office who were educated in literature—and originally this only meant that they had a scriptural knowledge—extended through all the individual states. Literati have been the bearers of progress toward a rational administration and of all 'intelligence.'

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