Teaching Milton this semester, I think I made a couple of connections that must be obvious, but that I'd never quite seen before (or maybe I had: these days I'm finding the obvious striking again, which I don't know whether that's a good or a bad thing).
Stanislas Dehaene, in his fascinating book The Number Sense, describes an experiment with the Sheba, a chimp who not only learned to count accurately but learned to order the Arabic numerals by size from 1 to 9, and could accurately compute the inequality between any two of them presented to her and pick the larger one, which shows extremely impressive symbolic and mathematical understanding.
The topic of our attachment to words is allegorical of our attachments to ourselves and to other persons.
Some comments here, and also off-list, helped me think further about these issues.
I've been thinking about Pierre Bourdieu and also about what I think are common and reductive misreadings of Bourdieu. Bourdieu says two things which will often strike people as incompatible enough that they pay attention only to the first, to wit: That acquired tastes provide those who acquire them symbolic capital.
I've been thinking a bunch about free indirect style -- I may try to incorporate this issue into a short talk I'm giving in April. Or not.
Kathy Acker's first book appeared, in at least one version, as The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by The Black Tarantula (in 1975, as published by Viper's Tongue Books).
the erotic mask
Worn the world over by illusion
To weddings of itself and simple need.
There is adjustment between the animal and its food, its parasite, its enemy. Balances are kept. --Emerson, Fate
William Flesch is the author, most recently, of Comeuppance: Costly Signaling, Altruistic Punishment, and Other Biological Components of Fiction (Harvard, 2008), and The Facts on File Companion to 19th Century British Literature. He teaches the history of poetry as well as the theory of poetic and narrative form at Brandeis, and has been International Chair Professor at the National Taipei University of Technology (2012) and Old Dominion Fellow of the Humanities Council and Visiting Professor at Princeton (2014-15).