Blogs > Cliopatria > Some More Noted Things

Aug 11, 2006 7:32 am

Some More Noted Things

Map Bloggery: Check out Cartography, The Map Room, and MapHist. Thanks to Dale Light of Light Seeking Light for the tip.

Walter Benjamin: David Kaufman,"Thinking Past the Nazis," Jewish Daily Forward, 4 August, reviews Walter Benjamin's Berlin Childhood Around 1900. Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily for the tip, though its link"sucks" and mine doesn't.

More Scialabba: After you read Scott McLemee's"Divided Mind," Inside Higher Ed, 9 August, Rick Perlstein recommends that you read George Scialabba's"Message from Room 101," AGNI, #57. It's his"masterpiece," says Perlstein.

Holy City: Slavoj Zizek,"Let Jerusalem Go" LRB, 17 August, makes a reasonable proposal to partisans enthralled with their own conflict.

Senior Moments: A Washington Post poll reports that 30% of Americans cannot tell you the year in which 9/11 occurred and this bloke calls it"A Confederacy of Dunces." Actually, that's one of my favorite novels and the 30% is largely made up of older people. We have trouble dating recent memory and recalling proper nouns. I much more easily recall the year in which my father died (1959) than the year of my mother's death (1998, I think). It makes me more forgiving of students who can't place the Civil War in the right century and know that, if you are fortunate to live so long, this too will happen to you.

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Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/24/2006

To be fair, Zizek is pretty hard to define within a discipline. I think he's probably best described as a "cultural critic" with a strong background in critical theory. He has, however, written a lot on religion, so Jonathan's mistake is not that far off the mark. The only decent stuff he's written, however, is on Hitchcock, and that VERY good.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/13/2006

I don't see any parallel at all between the words that you're putting in quotation marks and what he actually said. I suppose Zizek has as much right to speak to the issue and as much expertise on the issue as either of us. As for empathy, the most empathetic people are killing each other as we speak.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/13/2006

"Christianity's attempt to heal the wounds of the Fall of Rome and forget the trauma of the Crusades... and that's why Episcopalians should recognize gay marriage."

There's a germ of a half-decent idea in that letter you linked to, but it's an old idea which is given no greater credence or value by being penned by someone with neither expertise nor empathy.

How is it, I wonder, that we're having a Zizekian argument and there's not a Weblogger around?

Ralph E. Luker - 8/13/2006

Yes, of course. If Zizek really mistakes Brecht for King Solomon, he's grossly mistaken. On the other hand, what he's proposing isn't "just psychobabble," any more than Solomon's proposal to the two women was. Ultimately, control of old Jerusalem will keep Israel and its neighbors at war with each other ad infinitum, unless it is willing to consider a resolution that doesn't "split the difference" or cut the baby in two, but that allows it to live free of control by either Israel or Palestine.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/13/2006

These are unpleasant days, friend.

Maybe it's just me, but I think if Zizek's going to cite the "split the baby" theme and pretend or really believe that Brecht came up with it all by himself, something's missing.

The rest of it's just psychobabble, honestly. It's like calling Protestantism "Christianity's attempt to heal the wounds of the Fall of Rome and forget the trauma of the Crusades"....

Ralph E. Luker - 8/11/2006

You're in a very unpleasant frame these days, aren't you? What's ignorant about what Zizek said? And if you don't know the kind of work that Zizek does, where's the public display of ignorance?

Jonathan Dresner - 8/11/2006

I suspect that you're not in a mood to contemplate anything that Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims might think is a serious proposal.

I don't recall ever hearing a proposal for either a shared or neutral Jerusalem from an official Palestinian, Arab or Muslim source. The standard pro-Palestinian position is "pre-1967 borders" which means -- among other things -- a divided city with the Western Wall/Al-Aqsa under Palestinian control (and no Jewish access: Jordan didn't permit Jews to visit the site of the Temple, and there's little reason to think that a Hamas-led Palestinian administration would, either).

Just because something's satire doesn't mean it isn't serious. All I really know about Zizek is that he's a frequent topic of discussion at Kotsko's place; if he's just a garden-variety modern philosopher instead of a theologian, that doesn't really alter my opinion of his writing, though it does explain some of his ignorance.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/11/2006

And, for what it's worth, Zizek isn't a theologian. I take it your calling him one, in this context, is a dismissive reference.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/11/2006

Since the proposal by you and your wife four years ago was satire, I take it that you didn't intend it seriously. In the current climate, I suspect that you're not in a mood to contemplate anything that Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims might think is a serious proposal.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/11/2006

Zizek's letter is an incredible public display of empty bravado, replacing history with psychobabble (and citing Brecht without citing his biblical source is either brazen ignorance or deliberate offense), and proffering one of the oldest possible "solutions" -- I think it goes back to 1948 -- with no regard whatsoever to context or practical considerations. He's enthralled with his own style, that's for sure.

For the record, my wife and I proposed a Jerusalem sharing solution about four years ago, and it wasn't terribly original then. Well, some of it was: we proposed that the city be the capital of both states, with the official buildings like parliament shared on an alternating basis -- Knesset on odd days; Palestinian Parliament on even; special meetings and caucuses would be assigned rooms at random on the spot to prevent terror attacks -- or alternating floors (Israeli offices on floors 2, 4, etc.).

That was original, and far more "reasonable" -- though it was satire -- than the slapdash musings of theologians. Ask Karen Armstrong about a solution for Jerusalem, and I might listen.