[KB] Publish and Perish?

brud0025@umn.edu brud0025 at umn.edu
Tue Jul 15 10:08:26 EDT 2008

Greetings again John, Ed, Camille, Carroll and others,

So much controversy rages over the category of romance/romantic that people 
often fly back into the arms of classic literature and conservative 
philosophy and criticism. I suppose I would characterize Burke’s way of 
thinking as a “sustained revolutionary attitude” toward what should remain 
permanent and what should change. I think I hear a hopeful chorus out there 
(or I’m paranoid): Back that up! Back that up! So I’ll make what is called 
an “Immelmann Turn,” (G. ace, 1890-1916), quite risky under the 
circumstances, but it is a way of gaining altitude while making a 180 
degree change of direction and then flipping over. Most of us have seen 
this flying maneuver in movies like Waldo Pepper so it has become pretty 
commonplace. In the recent Villanova conference seminar I had the germ of 
an idea, just a little dialectical countermovement which I dared not voice 
at the time, it amounted to the following: is transcendence anything other 
than what we’ve come to understand by the term objectivity?

That’s not all. It appears to me that subjectivity has been deconstructed 
as cruelly as objectivity, leaving simply no room in which to maneuver: 
agents flattened out, interiors aired and found to be only more surfaces, 
gossamer that disappears under the microscope, not to mention the 
decomposition of space and time into I don’t know what.. I suppose this 
justifies the romantic philosophical move toward anti-foundationalism, with 
which we are still trying to come to grips. This is a contradiction isn’t 
it? Coming to grips with something that cannot be grasped. Hence the flip 
and then the twist.

Not to play leap frog in a hall of mirrors, but what I have been reading 
about the Romantic Circle surrounding Novalis (David W. Wood, Notes for a 
Romantic Encyclopedia; Katie Terezakis, The Immanent Word, etc.), suggests 
that the linguistic and rhetorical turns of the 20th century were not 
unprecedented, that romanticism as philosophy and art was a form of 
“transcendence through immanence ” of an enlightenment which had grown 
despotic, which had, in fact, become an Illuminism, a dangerous, however 
exciting, underground movement to topple monarchies and religions and usher 
in the modern world.

Reaction there was; we live in that reaction. But what is also eternally 
true is that imagination and enthusiasm will always try to break out of 
this reaction.

I think I heard whispered at Villanova several times in the presentations 
the word emergence. One can feel starting on the top of one’s head a 
prickly sensation running in a line down the back. (Or is that just a 
sunburn from sitting last evening with my back to the sun?). What is 
unsatisfactory to me about the absence of a third way through the 
Comedy/Tragedy thicket is that, in both, action is killed off. People are 
either accepted the way they are or killed off, sacrificed or 
self-sacrificed. We kill with laughter or we kill with our hands. But where 
is adventure, the less dramatic form of action and struggle sans catharsis? 
I think this is where John Hatch is going with his rhetoric of 
reconciliation: a heroic transcendence of conflicts past and present. 
(he’ll have to clarify this for me as I finish reading his presentation he 
was gracious enough to send).

As we are aware Burke is really talking about killing principles no bodies, 
about transformation at a higher level; he is extremely reticent and 
cryptic when it comes to “action.” Perhaps you can understand that I am 
much dissatisfied with Burke’s treatment of epic, and his 
underhand/underground appropriation of the romantic frame. He doesn’t 
appear to “want” to separate religion from ethics. In this way I think he 
harnesses the power of shame and embarrassment, but this reactionary move 
has a tendency to backfire.

Ed wrote on Bastille Day, in response to John:

“Burke himself actually puts the two frames together [epic and tragedy] in 
the footnote on p. 36 [ATH]: "Insofar as the tragically and epically heroic 
approaches a purely nonreligious emphasis, it approaches the risks of 
coxcombry." This demurrer, on Burke's part, serves as a point in favor of 
the melodramatists in our ranks

A coxcomb is a jester’s cap adorned with a strip of red; another meaning is 
“a conceited foolish person.” Note that Burke only says “approaches the 
risks” of foolhardiness. This would appear to associate comedy with 
non-religious or secular point(s) of view. Clearly we’re again upon the 
threshold of nice and not nice varieties of comedy (the burlesque and 
satirical vs the tolerant). Also we’ve returned to Camille’s attempt to 
introduce comic romance into religious rhetoric. While “Romancing” this 
difference I think Bob Jones University took issue with Burke’s/Camille’s 
implication that “The Truth” was little more than a thoroughly rhetorical 
use of words (a carrot with a little c). Through that crack in the dike we 
saw Intolerance erupt with bitter and tragic results. Or was it merely 

Ah, time, duty calls, work, the reaction, the always inadequate structure 
from within which we plot new approximations of a satisfactory life. 
Action? Why, it’s has moved underground.



ps: Interesting post by Jim Moore just popped up on my screen. Glad he’s 
back. He writes: “Epic tries to be transcendent--Novel is shamelessly 
immanent.” He’s quoting Bakhtin; I only have his work on Rabelais.

No time to comment now but the following bit expresses a common view of 
immanence: that it is something to be shunned whatever the cost. Maybe! 
Maybe Not! Is there really shame in being thoroughly immersed in your time 
and culture, of engaging the epic and romantic element of being and acting 
without excessive analysis and criticism? Looking forward to addressing 
this later.

Immanence is imminent; transcendence is eminent.  (argh!, I tried).

More information about the KB mailing list