Criticism, Blogging and Lampedusa’s The Leopard

If you aren’t following Robert Minto’s blog you’re missing some thought-provoking posts on the essence of criticism and blogging. I’ve been contemplating his On Apophatic Criticism post, which scrutinises, in part, Stephen Mitchelmore’s approach to criticism on my favourite book blog This Space.

Minto also categorises criticism into five varieties. I’m not sure how he would classify my writing about books, “book chat” perhaps; like astrology, I see elements of what I attempt in a number of his categories.

My interest in literature, and art in general, is shaped by curiosity about how others perceive or know the world. How do others perceive some thing (abstract or material) as a distinct object of perception, and how does this compare with my understanding. Kant says we don’t perceive things in themselves: “What may be the case with objects in themselves and abstracted from all this receptivity of our sensibility remains entirely unknown to us. We are acquainted with nothing except our way of perceiving them.” I’ve never quite understood why everyone isn’t as haunted with this suggestion as I am. Perhaps they are, but don’t feel a need to create a blog to  babble on about it. As a consequence, I’m naturally intrigued with literature as literary object, about words, sentences, form and so on, but from a conviction that literature engenders an imaginative perceiving that is transformative, for a time at least, of the world before us. To read literature with sympathy, intuition, intelligence, comprehension and grace enriches perception and deepens our interpretive function.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze – The Father’s Curse: The Son Punished (1777)

Reading Lampedusa’s The Leopard this week, in which Greuze’s painting is given a structural and thematic role depicting the twin themes of decadence and sexual indulgence in the context of the story’s overarching theme of death. The painting leads into the beautiful final chapters, ‘Death of a Prince’ and ‘Relics’ in which Fabrizio determines that he has truly lived only two or three years of his life–all else was just boredom and pain. The painting reinforces Lampedusa’s autobiographical story about the social decline of his noble family into the middle classes.

If a reading of The Leopard begins with a sense of the book’s seductive prose and its inherent melancholy, where does the transition happen from a perception of the book as a work of literature to a transformative experience? What happens when we interrupt “normal’ life to occupy ourselves with something that isn’t of our life but enriches it in an unexpected way, giving it, if one is lucky, a new, deeply felt meaning? Exploring these questions are what compels me to read and to write about that experience on this blog.

7 thoughts on “Criticism, Blogging and Lampedusa’s The Leopard

  1. More and more I think we’re back in the eighteenth century and that blogs are like those essay pamphlets that circulated in literary London at the time – the original Spectator, for instance. Such writing gave rise to the birth of the novel as a form. Will blogs likewise bring forth something new?

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    • I think blogging has offered up a new form, one of immediacy, in the nature of an unedited first draft, raw and genuine. I like your analogy, another might be to the zines of the late 1970s.

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  2. Your description of your interest as a reader and blogger describes a fascinating version, it seems to me, of the apophatic interest in literature, because of your Kantian focus on the inaccessibility of the object in itself to perception; that inaccessibility marks, after all, one of the limits of writing. Also, regardless of my silly typology, this is an excellent blog, and I’ve enjoyed your twitter hiatus insofar as it has lead to more posting from you! Seems in a lot of corners that something of the activity and interaction of the old circa 2007 “blogosphere” is, for some reason, flickering back to life. Perhaps our collective disillusionment with social media, the blog-killer?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d depart from Twitter with a whoop and a chirrup if I thought that doing so heralded a return to the best days of the blogosphere (ugly word but useful shortcut). My abstention from Twitter has marked a period during which I read more and thought more deeply about what I read.

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