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Notes Towards the Finale: Performing Our Understanding

Anne Dalke's picture


As prelude to "performances"
of some Jamesian habits of mind:

aseidman, Penguins, Marina in The James Family Theatre:
Alice's Monologue, Henry's, and William's

kkazen and MissArcher2:
The "Fresh" Family and their Facebook Pages

Calamity and fabelhaft:
"The Princess Pat," rewritten

exsoloadsolem and jrlewis: 
Alice James' (fictional) commencement speech!!

Kudos (and a request) from Paul Grobstein....
and novel about William James
(written as if by Henry James):
Rebecca Goldstein's The Dark Sister (1994, 2004)

AND a (very Gertrude Steinian) gift
Poem-A-Day, via Alice Lesnick:

William James, Henry James
by Sarah Gridley

Great gift of purple apples! The distant stars, the far-in sugars
of their skins. With light in certain
shades of the world, autumn of limited
use in the world, I could go
for a day
in the word canteen.

In the world outside
I have yet to put in. It looks as though the bridges
are standing in aquarelle. You know propitious
comes of going-forward. Where the horse in mind
unfastens earth, fastens thirst
to a treelike task.

what the poem evoked, first, for me (via "bridges standing in aquarelle" <--watercolors
<--water <--aqua <---->aqueducts --> viaducts) was Paul Klee's 1937 "Revolution of the Viaducts": What we see is a viaduct whose arches have broken ranks in such a way that each one of them walks away by itself on flat feet provided by Klee for the purpose. It can be read in several ways - as a symbol of a whole world on the march, as an emblem of individuality and independence, or as an equivocal reference to the concept of revolution .... uniformity of any kind was anathema to Klee, whereas differentiation was life itself. [sure sounds like William James!]

going "for the day/ in the word canteen" evoked a counter-sense of Henry's writing, of digging deep into the uncapturable meaning of things: cf. It. cantina cellar, cave, of doubtful deriv.; the history and order of the senses is obscure [from the O.E.D.]

next, the
"horse in mind" evoked the Platonic forms that William James spent his life fighting against/trying to replace with the pragmatic method): The visible world ... is a world of change and uncertainty. The intelligible world is made up of the unchanging products of human reason ... the world of reality. The intelligible world contains the eternal "Forms" (or idea) of things; the visible world is the imperfect and changing manifestation in this world of these unchanging forms. For example, the "Form" or "Idea" of a horse is intelligible, abstract, and applies to all horses; this Form never changes, even though horses vary wildly among themselves...An individual horse is a physical, changing object...the Form of a horse, or "horseness," never changes. As a physical object, a horse only makes sense in that it can be referred to the "Form" or "Idea" of horseness (from "The Allegory of the Cave").

fourth, a (much more concrete) reading from a (related) orchardist:
it's abstruse, but having read it several times I am now thinking about the metaphor of the purple apple (unusual but it happens as with the Arkansas Black) reflecting the speaker's psychological state as she thinks about her static, closed past/present (she could contemplate a canteen for a day) and a more outward, active future (the mental image of the plow horse).  She ends with the image of a tree (which I take is the apple tree) that ties stasis with movement/process (quenching thirst) just as the apple in the first line has inward stars at their centers that have a relation with the distant stars and far-in sugars.

I don't know what this has to do with you, but hey, you're a farm girl and an intellectual with mental plow horses of your own and treelike thirsts.

And now for other "performances"
of some Jamesian habits of mind:

aseidman, Penguins, Marina: The James Family Theatre
Alice's Monologue;

kkazen and MissArcher2:
The "Fresh" Family and their Facebook Pages

Calamity and fabelhaft:
"The Princess Pat," rewritten

exsoloadsolem and jrlewis: 
Alice James' (fictional) commencement speech!!