Sunday, 9 September 2018

Professor Auerbach meets Mrs. Ramsey in To the Lighthouse

It’s pointless knowing a lot if you only see what you already know. Auerbach in Mimesis was hewing to certain lines but when he comes to modernist writers who run off those he seems to be a little blunted. Knots no doubt. The Brown Stocking which I skipped to wanting to see what he made of To the Lighthouse misses a great deal particularly the influence of Bergson via Proust. (Proust was the best man at the wedding of his cousin Louise Neuberger to Bergson.) The concept of Duration, how memory sifts it and the density of poetic expression which reflects its compression in the present moment; all these elements are present in To the Lighthouse. I have posted before on the panpsychist element in the book
Mrs. Ramsey is herself the lighthouse illuminating with intense beams different sections of the cone of memory.
cone of memory
She is compared in Auerbach’s citation to a Greek goddess. I think this must be an ironical reference to the Moirai (Fates), the spinners which decide the fates of men, here ironically knitting her yarn into a pair of socks. Her matchmaking schemes are the fates she ordains.

Mr. Ramsey shares with the author’s father fussiness about soup. Leslie Stephen in his essay A Bad Five Minutes in the Alps taken from the collection Essays on Freethinking and Plainspeaking admits to this crankiness but does not specify its exact nature. I take this essay i.e. ‘Bad 5 mins.’, to controvert William James’s Will to Believe. More on that later. L.S. edited a collection of the essays of William Kingdon Clifford of which The Ethics of Belief is one and of course Clifford is perhaps the first of the modern panpsychists. ‘What goes around comes around’.

((All of Sir Leslie Stephen's books can be found at wikisource:
Leslie Stephen

Correction: William James’s essay was delivered in 1896 and the Essays on Freethinking and Plainspeaking were first published in 1873 and so for James to tackle Stephen on the matter of faith under pressure would be proleptic time travel, or something. In any case the connection is clear because James mentions Stephen in his first paragraph.

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