Speaking (as everybody has been) of Kenneth Goldsmith’s visit to Stephen Colbert,

please begin your thinking by referring to the original at


Then go on to this study in comparative spectrometry.


After you’ve done that, fill in the bibliography with this wardrobe analysis from The Decay of Lying.


Enjoy Nature! I am glad to say that I have entirely lost that faculty. People tell us that Art makes us love Nature more than we loved her before; that it reveals her secrets to us; and that after a careful study of Corot and Constable we see things in her that had escaped our observation. My own experience is that the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature’s lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition. Nature has good intentions, of course, but, as Aristotle once said, she cannot carry them out. When I look at a landscape I cannot help seeing all its defects. It is fortunate for us, however, that Nature is so imperfect, as otherwise we should have no art at all. Art is our spirited protest, our gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place.

Tune by victor to be played

Ernst Hanfstaengl had been a popular member of Harvard’s class of 1909. Wealthy, talented, gregarious and cosmopolitan, with an aristocratic German father and an American mother, he composed songs for the football team while he was in school and enjoyed productive friendships in New York afterward. Acquainted with both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was also briefly engaged to Djuna Barnes. In 1934, when the time came for his twenty-fifth Harvard reunion, he was named a vice-marshal of the class. By then, however, his country of residence was Germany, where he had become one of Hitler’s early intimates.

Hanfstaengl with Hitler and Goering in 1932, from Wikimedia Commons

By then, too, the nature of the Nazi regime was apparent. After students and alumni protested, Hanfstaengl resigned his honorary position at the head of his class, and on Harvard’s behalf President James Bryant Conant refused his thousand-dollar gift to his alma mater. Students also demonstrated against a visit of the German cruiser Karlsruhe to Boston, and arrests were made. In Cambridge, the spring of 1934 was a halcyon time for the emotions.

The emotions weren’t all on one side, either. At least two prominent members of Harvard’s humanities faculty, Francis Peabody Magoun and George Kingsley Zipf, were openly pro-Nazi, and it was as Harvard’s Charles Eliot Norton Professor for the academic year 1932-33 that T. S. Eliot formulated his notion that there is no place in society for Jews. Here, from the Crimson’s archive for May 17, 1934, is a little pragmatic souvenir of what the word “society” was capable of meaning during that time. To find our way through that, perhaps we should listen in the text for guiding imperatives. There is one: Royall Victor’s tune, crying to Harvard and to the after time, “Don’t spare my heart.” Reading in a way that doesn’t spare the heart, then, we’ll begin to comprehend that Ernst Hanfstaengl’s family business was art publishing and the boat was pretty. It was to sail prettily on until April 9, 1940, when it was sunk during the invasion of Norway. http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h98000/h98276.jpg


Three hundred miles from Harvard, on the quiet Quaker campus of Swarthmore College, another young man felt that his heart had not been spared. When he tried to tell the editors of The Nation about his heart’s wound, however, they reacted only with bafflement. Baffled by others in the same way, they asked their readers on December 27, 1933, for help.

Eighty years later, the bafflement seems to have changed into a problem in the definition of terms. Because history’s lexicon in 2013 probably would define the Third Reich as indeed a regime of “men without conscience — in short, cruel, inhumane, selfish, and even immoral, lacking one redeeming characteristic,” speakers of a 2013 dialect of English will have difficulty communicating a sense of what David Lukens Price was trying to communicate in the vocabulary of 1933, before words like “cruel” had become encrusted with their post-1933 senses. And what makes our attempt to read the simple dead language of the past more difficult, not less, is that we actually have a single hint as to who David Lukens Price, speaker of a language once living but now dead, once seemed to be.

In Delaware County, Pennsylvania, we might be able to visit the courthouse and learn more. Anywhere outside Delaware County, however, there now seems to exist only one datum about the history of David Lukens Price: that he graduated from Swarthmore High School, then continued living at home while he attended Swarthmore College, from which he graduated in 1932. The date at the foot of his letter to The Nation says he was still in the borough three semesters later. That seems to be it, at least outside Delaware County. If he ever uttered another word that was remembered, I haven’t found it in the history. I haven’t even been able to locate an obituary. But the single datum that does survive comes back to us as a pair of Delaware County verbal events separated by a year, and it’s called Halcyon.

Halcyon is, or was, the yearbook of Swarthmore College. In the 1932 edition there’s a small picture of senior David Lukens Price, with his local address and a list of the student organizations to which he belonged, notably German Club I, II, III, IV. But the yearbook is, or was, a project of the junior class, and on the Price page in the 1931 edition somebody has tried hard to say something nice about Dave.


In Pennsylvania newspaper archives from the 1960s, a Charles E. Pugh shows up here and there, typically delivering a speech in his capacity as head of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Automobile Association. I don’t know whether that man is the continuation through time of the cheerful frat boy in the right column above, but the fit would be smooth. In comparison . . .

In comparison, oh poor Dave. No wonder he wrote the word “destiny!” with an exclamation mark. In his head he had a picture of a girl (or boy) named Germany, and he liked to think that if he could just sing beautifully enough she (or he) would notice him. After all, the only real difference between Dave the musician and Ernst the musician lay not in them but in their venues of performance. In Cambridge and Berlin, members of the audience would rise inspired from their seats, go forth, and launch cruisers. From Swarthmore, on the other hand, the sound of the ocean was absent. Unable to send men forth, unable to make them join in the song he heard in his head, Dave could only go silent. On their yearbook page, Halcyon’s words about him bring forth no echo.

I also discuss the page from The Nation at http://jonathan-morse.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-not-to-write-while-incredulous.html. A critical history of policies toward Nazi Germany on American campuses in the 1930s is Stephen H. Norwood’s The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses (Cambridge University Press, 2009). For what the information may be worth, a Caroline Augusta Lukens held the position of alumni recorder at Swarthmore during David Lukens Price’s time there, and a Clara Price Newport was a professor of German (Halcyon 1931, pp. 24 and 26).


International Art English >>—> International Freshman Photography English

e-flux, July 19, 2013:

A piece for one voice and a piano, FIEND essentially imbricates two performances into one. Utilizing the stage of the National Theatre as an archaic structure of uttering truths by means of pathos and illusion . . .

University of Chicago Press, 2013

Simultaneously unfolding on stage, John Tilbury will add to, interfere with and oppose the artist’s reading . . .

Imbricating, the performer simultaneously unfolds. Then she utilizes her unfoldedness by uttering its pathetic truth:

Anne Sexton, “Doors, Doors, Doors”



The papers that came in from the Hong Kong students weren’t in ESL. They weren’t incoherent, not at all. But they were incomprehensible. The year was 1977, my first as a professor of English at the University of Hawaii, and the assignment had been ordinary by American undergraduate standards: a reading of a text, five typed pages long. One of the Hong Kong students gave me what I’d asked for, but from each of the others I received only a startling surprise: a thick wad of lined notebook paper consisting of thirty pages hand-copied, word for word, right out of the textbook.

This wasn’t cheating — not in any ordinary sense of the idea. There couldn’t have been any intent to deceive. The students must have known that I’d read the book. But then what had they given me? Why in the world would anybody want to look at it? I tried asking the students, but that didn’t help at all. With tears glittering in their eyes, they protested that they had to do their work that way, because that was what they had been taught in school. And (with indignation added to the tears) NO!, they couldn’t type their papers either. They had to copy the words by hand. That was what they had been taught.

Finally the student who had done the assignment American-style rescued me. In Hong Kong as of 1977, she explained, there were two school systems: the British and the Chinese. She had attended a British school and received pretty much the same education she would have received in England. It transferred right over to the University of Hawaii, an American school in an Unamerican locale. But the Chinese schools were strictly Confucian. An English class there wasn’t about learning English; it was about learning to ascribe the moral authority of tradition to a repeated activity — in this case, a muscle activity called “writing.” My own sense of the word “writing” had nothing to do with it.


A few weeks ago somebody from an electric utility commented in Salon about how much his industry has been changed by the computer. In his building, for instance, there was once a large room full of draftsmen. No more — and when I read that word “draftsmen” on my screen I suddenly realized that I hadn’t read it at all, anywhere else, for who knows how many years now? An entire category of labor, its name and its idea, have gone obsolete.

Drafting room, War Production Board, Washington, 1942. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/oem2002004351/PP/

The draftsman’s pipe is no more, and so is the draftsman. The War Production Board, likewise, fulfilled its purpose and then vanished into history. Labor and laboriousness, however, remain in effect and on wartime footing. Yesterday, for instance, I posted a note about a mysterious daily attempt, apparently originating from many sources in Poland, to reach a note about Margaret Bourke-White that I posted to this blog a year ago. I’d guess that that busily repeated simulation of a desire to read has something to do with a larger cyberprocess that has been going on all year now: a massive effort to take over computers running WordPress (like mine, for this blog) and turn them into automated spam engines. Here, for instance, is a screenshot that I took last night with the help of the tracking program StatComm. It displays a barrage of attempts to log into “The Art Part” by hundreds of cyberpersonae attempting to impersonate me.

And in this morning’s screenshot, the tracking program Wordfence displays a tiny part of the ongoing effort, universalized all through cyberspace, to take over any computer running a WordPress page passworded with the default name admin. To the algorithm running that process, the word part of the term password has nothing to do with that human thing, writing in words. It’s only a coefficient to be changed in order to change communication from a manpower to something with a less anachronistic name.

While we still can, however, let’s consider one more labor function from the past. At the right of Ford Madox Brown’s Victorian allegory Work, two writer-sages, Frederick Denison Maurice and (in the hat) Thomas Carlyle, contemplate a repeated muscle activity under the aspect of its ideal form. In his poem addressed to Maurice, “Come, when no graver cares employ,” Tennyson envisioned that ideal as a series of laborious imperatives:

How best to help the slender store,
How mend the dwellings, of the poor;
     How gain in life, as life advances,
Valour and charity more and more.

A century and a half later, the shovel and the horse and the barefoot man with vegetation on his head are as obsolete as any draftsman, and the vocabulary word “charity” means something different when its culture’s writer-sage is Ayn Rand. Still, wouldn’t Frederick Denison Maurice and Alfred, Lord Tennyson have wanted us to hope that there may still remain something valorously human in Polish cyberspace — some impulse, for instance, toward actually reading my post about Margaret Bourke-White?

In that hope, let’s honor Maurice and Tennyson and Bourke-White as my students once honored Confucius. I registered Bourke-White’s photographs with the help of the fine muscles of my eyes, but then I wrote about them with the help of unembodied language. What I wrote may be unrepetitive after all, and subject to non-mechanical variation, and therefore untranslatable except in an error-prone, merely human way. Napisz komentarz w polu!