Ties to land and nature

More reflections prompted by:

Clare Cooper Marcus, House as a mirror of self. Exploring the deeper meaning of home, Lake Worth, Nicolas Hays, 2006 [1995].

Cooper Marcus notes the importance of land and nature in notions of home. This might seem like an obvious and trivial point – but it is something that those who construct what I call ‘bunker houses’, fortress houses, with shuttered windows which occupy every inch of the block they are built on, seem to have forgotten. They are inward, rather than outward looking houses. Houses that close down social and environmental connections.

One can counter, of course, with the objection that ‘views’ are highly prized real estate assets – but distant views perhaps, which pass over the immediate surrounds. Penthouses or houses on top of a hill from where people outside look like ants and one has the impression of flying above it all in a plane. I could invoke here Borges’s mythical Chinese encyclopedia and develop a classification of houses and apartments from where exterior objects “a long way off look like flies”.

Apartment dwellers in Stockholm, Sweden, often consider home to be the second home, where they spend weekends and vacations on the coast or in the forest. Ties to the land and nature, and memories of extended family prove stronger than the mere number of days spent in a particular dwelling. (p.2)

I was struck by this passage. To some degree this remark would also apply to dwellers in other European cities. But, the problem with this of course, is that one would have to have the financial means to make this notion of home possible and most people don’t. Or more optimistically, we could extend this to the holiday rentals people return to periodically – even if it is a simple caravan or a tent.

The human and the relation to the non-human

More reflections prompted by:

Clare Cooper Marcus, House as a mirror of self. Exploring the deeper meaning of home, Lake Worth, Nicolas Hays, 2006 [1995].

Cooper Marcus argues following Jung that:

“In the course of our lives, other people enter, and sometimes leave the field of our psychic awareness. […] What is less obvious is that the same thing happens with the objects and places in our lives. We selectively pay attention and invest them with emotion as it serves the deeper, largely unconscious process of individuation, or becoming who we truly are. […] In our own lives we select the sets and props of different “acts” (or periods of life) in order – often unconsciously – to display images of ourselves and to learn by reflection of the environment around us.” p. 8

Cooper Marcus over the course of the 20 year period of gestation of her book developed a fascinating technique which invited people to visually draw a representation of their home, then to speak to that representation of home as they would to a human person and then invite the home speak back to them. What interests me about this is the recognition of the non-human as a person in its own right and the idea that the human is not the only existent who acts in the world. The human, in fact, exists in relation to a very broad network of the human and non-human. This is of course Bruno Latour’s actor network theory (orginally derived from aspects of Foucault’s work).

But in Jungian fashion, Cooper reads this as the material things simply reflecting back to us our own preoccupations and projections, or alternately our manipulation of those material things. I would perhaps modify the statement I made in my last post and suggest that Jung’s thought was just as colonising as Freud’s in that it appropriates and colonises the other in the interests of the self. The New Age movement which has taken on many aspects of Jungian psychology tends to reduce the external world to the desires, wants and failings of the self. The external is simply a subservient instrument in the expansion and fortification of the self.

I always feel a sense of unease when encountering psychological and existential/phenomenological systems of thought and note my preference for an approach like Foucault’s. In psychology and the systems of Freud and Jung, the starting point is always the self which spreads to occupy every aspect of existence. Everything becomes a reflection or projection of the self and the hard boundaries of the other are eliminated, colonised and assimilated. Jung argues that what we see in the external are projections of our own unconscious. One becomes trapped in a claustrophobic system where there is no outside to the self. The unknown, the unconscious is a substrata of the self which either waits to be discovered or exposed to the light of day (Freud), or are unrecognised projections of the self, both individual and collective which are then open to manipulation (Jung).

Foucault however, begins with the premise that we are born already belonging to a historical, cultural, linguistic and material situation. The human self is born into this complex network and the measure of freedom of the self is the capacity to modify that belonging, even if it is only in the tiniest of ways. Those modifications are networked into the broader outside and we use and modify tools already available in human culture and history to effect changes to ourselves within this broad network. It is not about creating an ever expanding fortress of identity (Jung’s strange Bollingen Tower project might be an example of this), but of understanding our limits and intersections with the network of which we are a part.

The new school of Object Oriented Ontology or Speculative realism also argues for the position that non-human things are not simply screens onto which the human self is projected, but have their own autonomy. These ideas find predecessors in the structuralist movement, including Foucault’s own ideas.

I noted in my book in relation to structuralism:

In the place of research centred around an unchanging and introspective human subject, the structuralists advocated the exploration of the unconscious structures underlying culture, knowledge, society and language – in short the structures underlying all human endeavour. They examined structures of cultural production without linking them back to a central human agency or to individual psyches, to consciousness or to individual lived experiences of existence.
Clare O’Farrell, Michel Foucault, London: Sage, 2005

Going on to quote Foucault

It is humanism that is abstract! It is all these cries from the heart, all these claims concerning the human person and existence that are abstract: that is, cut off from the scientific and technical world which is actually our real world … Well, the current effort being made by people of our generation, is not to set up man against science and against technology, but precisely to show that our thought, our life, our way of being, right down to our most everyday way of being, are a part of the same systematic organization, and thus emerge from the same categories as the scientific and technical world. It is the ‘human heart’ which is abstract, and it is our research which seeks to link man to his science, to his discoveries, to his world, which is concrete.
Foucault, Entretien avec Madeleine Chapsal. In Dits et ecrits, vol I., (Paris: Gallimard), pp.517-18)

Freud vs Jung

Browsing a not terribly high end bookshop in Brisbane, somewhat surprisingly I came across this book:

Clare Cooper Marcus, House as a mirror of self. Exploring the deeper meaning of home, Lake Worth, Nicolas Hays, 2006.[1995]

I have long been fascinated by the relation between home and physical space. Interestingly, there appears to be only a paucity of philosophical reflection on this subject, although I have by no means done an exhaustive search in the area. One work I quite like on this subject is Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness. (Here is a short piece he has written on the subject of home.)

In any case, I have started reading Cooper Marcus’s book and am finding it fascinating. I am no great fan of Jung or psychology in general, but she mixes it with her strong background in architecture (she is a retired Professor of Architecture and Landscape Architecture from Berkeley) along with references to Bachelard and others, so I am prepared to listen.

As I read, I will post up reflections prompted by the book. As a starting place, I found her description of the difference between Freud and Jung’s approaches quite enlightening. Freud’s notion of the unconscious is a place of isolating and solitary darkness, threat and fear to be conquered, tamed and controlled. Jung’s notion is of a mysterious, collective and not unfriendly (but still dangerous) surrounding cosmos of inspiration allowing the self to expand its boundaries and links to the outside. Freud operated in the mode of colonising power erasing the other, Jung as an explorer and friend of the other. This binary characterisation is of course not entirely accurate, but for me it sparks a whole range of ideas and possible choices that could be made at a collective social and cultural level or choices that could have been made in the problematic twentieth century.

This is what Cooper Marcus says:

For Sigmund Freud, the unconscious was like some dangerous wilderness, and symbols manifested in dreams contained impulses or conflicts the conscious mind needed to conceal. Carl Jung had a very different perception of the unconscious. For him, it had both a personal and a collective component and was “like the night sky, an infinite unknown, studded with myriads of tiny sparks of light that can become the sources of illumination, insight, and creativity for the person in the process of individuation”. (Metzner, p.5), pp.7-8

The Cynical Educator (2018)

This looks interesting. I’m posting here to remind myself to read it. Available for free or for a small donation online or in paperback.

Ansgar Allen, The Cynical Educator, Mayfly books, 2018

Ground down, disenchanted, but committed to education. Unable to quit, yet deploring everything education has become. We suffer a weakened and weakening cynicism. This cynicism exploits the last remaining educational commitments of an otherwise broken workforce, draining that workforce of its final pleasure: Revolt. Our cynicism is reactionary and conditional – exhausting where it might invigorate, rendering complicit, giving safe passage to bad temper – but can be reclaimed. We need more cynicism, not less. With The Cynical Educator a revived, militant Cynicism affronts us. Drawing on a long history of religious denial and philosophical intrigue, it brings our educational bad faith to the surface. It confronts the educated with the fruit of their conceit.

About the author
Ansgar Allen is a Lecturer in Education at the University of Sheffield and author of Benign Violence: Education in and beyond the Age of Reason.

You can read the book online , download it for free (and donate a suggested £1 if you like), or purchase a paperback copy at your local bookstore or online.

CFP: (Re) thinking translations. Methodologies, objectives, perspectives (2018)

(Re) thinking translations. Methodologies, objectives, perspectives

European University Institute, Villa Salviati 11-12 October 2018

Villa Salviati – Via Bolognese 156
Florence, Italian Republic (50122)

Call for papers

SUMMARY
In the last four decades, scholars have begun to go beyond the traditional perspective of linguistic and literary studies, and to consider the translations as cultural practices and the result of various processes of cultural and intellectual “negotiation” between two different contexts. In recent years also historians have progressively started to take a close interest in translations as sources to investigate the ways in which knowledge and ideas were constructed, disseminated, re-elaborated and assimilated in new cultural, social and political contexts. The aims of this international conference is to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue on these problems, bringing together scholars, graduate students and early career researchers from Translation Studies, History, History of Book, History of Science, Literary Studies and related disciplines who are interested in discussing methodologies, objectives and perspectives in the study of translations.

Argument
In the last four decades, scholars have begun to go beyond the traditional perspective of linguistic and literary studies, and to consider the translations as cultural practices and the result of various processes of cultural and intellectual “negotiation” between two different contexts. In recent years also historians have progressively started to take a close interest in translations as sources to investigate the ways in which knowledge and ideas were constructed, disseminated, re-elaborated and assimilated in new cultural, social and political contexts. Among others, Peter Burke, Lázsló Kontler and Christopher Rundle have offered a problematized reflection on the role that the study of translations plays in historical research, underlining how translation could be «the lens through which we research our historical object» (Rundle 2011).

The aims of this international conference is to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue on these problems, bringing together scholars, graduate students and early career researchers from Translation Studies, History, History of Book, History of Science, Literary Studies and related disciplines who are interested in discussing methodologies, objectives and perspectives in the study of translations.

The conference will be divided into two parts. On Thursday 11st October, the attention will be focused on methodological issues. On Friday 12nd October, trying to explore and further promote intersections between Translation Studies, Intellectual History of Enlightenment and History of Science, we will address a specific research question, the contribution that translations offered in the circulation of scientific works in Europe during the long eighteenth century.

Participants are especially encouraged to present papers dealing with any aspects related to the study of translations. Suggested topics might include, but are in no restricted to the following:

  • Translations and Cultural Transfer
  • Translations and History of Book
  • Translations and History of Science
  • Translations and Intellectual History of Enlightenment
  • Eighteenth century theories and practices of translation
  • The materiality of translation
  • Actors involved in translation processes

Deadline and Other Information
Please submit proposals for papers (c. 300 words, in English or French) with a short CV to alessia.castagnino@eui.eu by 31 May 2018. You will receive an answer by 30 June 2018. Proposed papers should not exceed 20 minute in length.

Participation is free of charge and includes lunches, dinner and coffee breaks. We may be able to contribute financially to accomodation of a certain number of participants. Please indicate in your proposal if you would benefit from this support.

Organising Commitee
Prof. Ann Thomson (European University Institute, Florence)
Dr. Alessia Castagnino (European University Institute, Florence)

KEYWORDS
translation, science, cultural history, intellectual history, enlightenment

CONTACT
Alessia Castagnino
courriel : alessia,castagnino@eui.eu

What is a good translation?

These remarks are prompted by a recent short interview in The Guardian with Sam Taylor, a novelist and translator of 30 books from French into English. He comments

‘Ultimately, it’s a question of taste. My personal ideal for a translation is one that makes the reader forget they are reading a translation at all, but not everyone feels the same way.’

This happens to be my own view as well. I prefer reading well-crafted English, rather than English that is constantly reminding me that it is a transliteration from another language. One could compare the two translations of Foucault’s Histoire de la folie in this context. The first translation of the abridged edition by Richard Howard, Madness and Civilization was a wonderful poetic excursion that flowed beautifully in English, just as Foucault’s book flowed in its original language. The two translators of the more recent and complete History of Madness have opted for the transliteration style – constantly reminding the reader that it was a book originally written in French. Perhaps these respective choices were made due to the relative celebrity of Foucault at the time of each translation. Howard’s translation appeared in 1964 when Foucault was little known even in France. In 2006, when the second translation by Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa was published, Foucault’s name brought an immense baggage of previous translation and interpretation.

To turn to other examples – this time in the realm of television. The 1970s American buddy cop TV series Starsky and Hutch was immensely popular in France as witty asides were added in the French dub that were not there in the original.

The late 70s Japanese TV show, Monkey  was also entertainingly rendered into English by David Weir who didn’t speak Japanese. He worked with a translation of the dialogue and rewrote it to work for an English speaking audience and also to fit what was happening on screen. (See a short list of lines from his script -some more dubious than others- that I put together back in the early days of the net). As Rebecca Hausler remarks in a recent article in The Conversation the “translation of Monkey was really more of a complete re-writing … adding plenty of puns, double-entendres, and pseudo philosophical musings”. I would qualify this by saying that perhaps the musings are not always so pseudo given that many of them refer to Buddhist scripture.

So which is best – a meticulously and technically accurate translation or one that works in the language into which it is translated? I would argue that there is a place for both approaches.

The Scholarly Writing Process (A Short Guide) (2016)

Jo VanEvery, The Scholarly Writing Process (A Short Guide)
Published November 1, 2016
Ebook: ISBN 978-1-912040-72-8
Paperback (178 x 111 mm): ISBN 978-1-912040-00-1

Getting stuck is a normal part of the writing process, even for experienced writers. My aim in publishing this Short Guide is to help you generate new writing projects, keep your writing projects moving forward, and ensure that your writing process results in publications. Designed so you can refer to it whenever you get stuck, this Short Guide breaks down the scholarly writing process into stages and provides both a description of that stage and writing prompts to help you get unstuck.

Table of Contents:
Preface: How to use this Short Guide
Introduction: Writing as Process & Product
Beginnings
Moving Your Project Forward
From process to product: Who are you writing for?
Determining which writing products to prioritize
Refining a specific writing product
What is finished?
Getting another perspective
Submission, Revision, publication
And you keep writing