Blog Post

By way of introduction, a plea for anticipatory absolution

Since being invited, after some coughing and ostentatious self-effacement, to contribute here, I've had a kind of blogger's block about it -- here, though not elsewhere. 

One of the things I'll want to be talking about is quotation, "words heated originally by the breath of others" (those words were heated originally if metaphorically by the breath of Burke) so let me just start by quoting Deleuze on writing, so as to celebrate blogging in general and to give myself in particular an ideal or an excuse, as necessary, for whatever my ignorance leads me to blog about:

How else can one write but of those things which one doesn't know, or knows badly? It is precisely there that we imagine having something to say.

                          --Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, p. xx


Note: "Anticipatory absolution" is the sin laid at Pope Boniface VII's door in Inferno XXVII, 101. I don't think that anyone has flagged this as the source of the "absolution in advance" granted Father Gomez to murder Lyra, in Philip Pullman's great His Dark Materials trilogy. Lyra's original last name is Belacqua, from Purgatorio (probably via Beckett's character Belacqua Shua), and her crossing to the underworld with Will Parry clearly echoes the crossing of Virgil and Dante, the living humans putting unexpected weight on the ghostly ferry boat.

William Flesch's picture
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).