Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A few more literature-in-the-media moments:

Paul Krugman writes in the NYT:
Economic data rarely inspire poetic thoughts. But as I was contemplating the latest set of numbers, I realized that I had William Butler Yeats running through my head: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

The widening gyre, in this case, would be the feedback loops (so much for poetry) causing the financial crisis to spin ever further out of control. The hapless falconer would, I guess, be Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary.
I cracked up when I read this -- perhaps because I'd just been grading. It's a good thing he's interpreting the economy and not Yeats.

* * *

More disturbingly, a New Republic article about David Axelrod, Barack Obama's consultant, pitches him as an expert in convincing white voters to accept black candidates. His recipe?
The self-described "keeper of the message" for Obama's presidential bid has taken the lessons he learned from his mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns and made them cohere into something that approaches a unified theory of how to elect a black candidate--emphasizing biography, using third-party authentication, attacking with an unconventional sideways approach, letting voters connect to the candidate by speaking to them directly in ads, and telling voters that supporting the black candidate puts them on the right side of history.
Ouch. I guess I have to give Axelrod credit -- it's tried and true. Really tried and true. For instance, in abolitionist slave narratives. (And as we keep hearing, Obama's memoirs are, as it were, "written by himself.") But it is painful to read that such a formula still seems necessary.

* * *

Stanley Fish, meanwhile, compares Barack Obama to Jesus in a way that only Fish can (or would), via Milton's Paradise Regained. I must admit to being amused.

* * *

And finally, according to a NYT article, some researchers in Massachusetts are using Thoreau's notes to study climate change.
Henry David Thoreau endorsed civil disobedience, opposed slavery and lived for two years in a hut in the woods here, an experience he described in “Walden.” Now he turns out to have another line in his résumé: climate researcher.
The profound weirdness of Walden, curiously, goes unmentioned in the article. The researchers also seem surprised that archives could, I don't know, matter.

Rock Hudson's Thoreau-quoting character in Douglas Sirk's 1955 All That Heaven Allows, sitting next to Jane Wyman

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