Posted: January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

The Dean of The Honors College has just shared with me an announcement from UROP (Office of Undergraduate Research), one of our closest allies on campus. I have been asked to pass it on to you so that you will be aware of important research opportunities, as well as substantial scholarships. Please have a look!

“UROP offers support that faculty mentors and Honors cannot give. They’re our main partner on campus. Research is an opportunity (and there is $$) that I think we have a strong obligation to promote and impart in a ‘high-touch’ way.”

–Dean Sylvia Torti


Metaphysical Poetry

Posted: January 19, 2019 in Uncategorized


John Donne’s standing as a great English poet, and one of the greatest writers of English prose, is now assured. However, it has been confirmed only in the present century [principally because of the criticism of T. S. Eliot]. The history of Donne’s reputation is the most remarkable of any major writer in English; no other body of great poetry has fallen so far from favor for so long and been generally condemned as inept and crude [principally because of the criticism of Samuel Johnson].


John Donne
(1572 – 1631)

I don’t know how it could be possible that anyone in class would never have read John Donne. But considering that students are now arriving at the university without ever having read Charles Dickens (not their fault!), it might be well to post these here. This is the kind of thing that made high school students, back in my day anyway, stop in their tracks and declare in a moment of self-discovery and conviction, I will be a poet too! Your results may vary. In any case, John Donne is the most exemplary of the so-called Metaphysical Poets, disparaged by Samuel Johnson for their irrationality. As I said in class today, T. S. Eliot celebrated and sought to rehabilitate them, precisely because their complete immersion in the act of writing revealed what a mind looks like when it is wholly active, and the various operations – mental and linguistic (because we think in the medium of a specific language, the two are always the same) – the mind can perform. Genuine psychological studies, for Eliot, emerge not from laboratory experiments, but rather from watching the mind wholly absorbed in the process of thinking, feeling, and creating – which are really just three different aspects of the same activity. This is everything that got lost with the isolation of the detached and calculating ego. Eliot claims the discovery precipitated a major derailment of English poetry, from which it had yet to recover. His call for a return to these poets of the English Renaissance is a central component of his attempt to call the English-speaking public back to its sense and correct this problem.

May the Almighty and merciful Lord grant unto you pardon and remission of all your sins, time for amendment of life, and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“The breath goes now,” and some say, “No,”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion.
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do;

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

nb_sculpture_stone_n_monument_to_the_poet_john_donne_3 detail 1631

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Batter my heart, three person’d God (Holy Sonnet 14)

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


Hymn To God, My God, In My Sickness

Since I am coming to that Holy room,
Where, with Thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made Thy music ; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before ;

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers, and I their map
, who lie
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
That this is my south-west discovery,
Per fretum febris, by these straits to die ;

I joy, that in these straits I see my west ;
For, though those currents yield return to none,
What shall my west hurt me ? As west and east
In all flat maps—and I am one—are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.

Is the Pacific sea my home ? Or are
The eastern riches ? Is Jerusalem ?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar ?
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them
Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ’s cross and Adam’s tree, stood in one place ;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me ;
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

So, in His purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord ;
By these His thorns, give me His other crown ;
And as to others’ souls I preach’d Thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own,
“Therefore that He may raise, the Lord throws down.”

Canon Formation, Canon Revision

Posted: January 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

Rembrandt von Rijn
Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer (1653)

Dear Students, we have already this semester discussed canon and canonicity with respect to the critical writings of T. S. Eliot. By “canon,” we mean at least two things:

1) the established and understood (though not necessarily written) set of rules whereby a given work of art can be recognized as valid and great, or the set of standards according to which an artist might produced a work of art which aspires to greatness.

2) the set of individual works (explicitly enumerated or otherwise) which have been accepted and set forth as exemplifying artistic greatness, and which function as standards against which all new works can be judged.

Canons, where they have been established, generally function to create a sense of collective identity, to draw together and maintain groups whose members are united by a common appreciation and respect for a body of works they view as authoritative. Most of the literature you read in high school – or are reading in college Humanities courses – will be have been taken from out of the established canon of great European and American literature – generally collected and presented in the form of anthologies. For many years, the Norton History of English, or American, Literature – currently edited by preeminent Shakespeare scholar and Harvard professor Steven Greenblatt – have been considered definitive. (In opposition to this, the modern Sciences, though they do have their own body of canonical writings, tend rather to be taught though textbooks – something about which you’ll hear me speak later.) But where there are group norms there are bound to arise disputes over what constitutes the norm and how one conforms to it properly, and where this is inclusion there is bound also to be exclusion. Since canons first began to appear, there have been disputes over what they do and ought to contain.

Today is no exception with regard to canon debates. Over the last decades, and particularly since the 1980s, a great debate has arisen in American universities regarding what taught ought to be taught to students (CLICK). As this country becomes increasingly diversified, and increasingly aware of its social diversity, many scholars have complained that the English literary canon canon is either too restrictive, insufficiently relevant, or entirely obsolete. Consequently, various efforts have arisen either to expand, revise or destroy the canon. In an effort to address these issues, the Norton company has in recent years begun to issue a series of “alternative” or supplementary anthologies, each representing a group of writers whose identities, interests and styles were thought grossly underrepresented in the dominant canon, which was composed predominantly of white males. These new volumes, though received well for the most part, have no emerged without controversy, and much of what is taught in Literature departments in colleges today involves not only the books contained in these modern canons but also the fiery debates surrounding their production.

Recently, I heard on the radio a broadcast featuring Amherst College professor Ilan Stavans, general editor of the most recent addition to the Norton family of literary anthologies – The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature.


The Accents of Latino Literature
NPR – On Point – Monday, September 13, 2010

Stavans, in his remarks, discussed the diverse group of cultures and historical periods from which he drew the texts he found representative of Latino literature. As in all prior cases of canon expansion and revision, Stavans will have made choices that will choice various parties either to rejoice or protest. This is almost inevitable, and these reactions are worthy of investigation and discussion. For now what should matter to us however, is the simply fact that standards do change, however gradually or rapidly, and that to remain culturally relevant ourselves we must be aware of these changes – both past and present.

What are your experiences with canons and canonicity? Has your education thus far taken the form of an inculcation into canonical literature, or has your education avoided the canon? If you have received such an education, do you feel that process represented an initiation into great culture, or rather a form of ideological indoctrination, or simply a waste of your time? Does your awareness of the literary canon, however recently acquired offer you comfort or distress?

I welcome and encourage all thoughtful responses.

Image  —  Posted: January 17, 2019 in Uncategorized


Posted: January 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’ was the show organised by the critic Roger Fry at London’s Grafton Galleries that introduced England to the work of Seurat, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne, all of whom were dead by then. It was a public and critical disaster, yet it became one of the most important moments in the history of modern art.

Bloomsbury group, name given to a coterie of English writers, philosophers, and artists who frequently met between about 1907 and 1930 at the houses of Clive and Vanessa Bell and of Vanessa’s brother and sister Adrian and Virginia Stephen (later Virginia Woolf) in the Bloomsbury district of London, the area around the British Museum. They discussed aesthetic and philosophical questions in a spirit of agnosticism and were strongly influenced by G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica (1903) and by A.N. Whitehead’s and Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica (1910–13), in the light of which they searched for definitions of the good, the true, and the beautiful and questioned accepted ideas with a “comprehensive irreverence” for all kinds of sham.

Nearly all the male members of the group had been at Trinity or King’s College, Cambridge, with Leslie Stephen’s son Thoby, who had introduced them to his sisters Vanessa and Virginia. Most of them had been “Apostles”; i.e., members of the “society,” a select, semisecret university club for the discussion of serious questions, founded at Cambridge in the late 1820s by J.F.D. Maurice and John Sterling. Tennyson, Arthur Hallam, Edward Fitzgerald, and Leslie Stephen had all been Apostles. In the early 1900s, when those who later formed the core of the Bloomsbury group were elected to the society, the literary critic Lowes Dickinson, the philosophers Henry Sidgwick, J.M.E. McTaggart, A.N. Whitehead, G.E. Moore, and the art critic Roger Fry, who became one of the Bloomsbury group himself, were members.

Paul Gaugin
Seaside Harvest: Le Pouldu

The difference is not a simple difference of degree between poets. It is something which had happened to the mind of England between the time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of Tennyson and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual poet and the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and they think; but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the odour of a rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility. . . . In the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set in, from which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is natural, was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful poets of the century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed certain poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude of the effect concealed the absence of others. . . . But while the language became more refined, the feeling became more crude.

–T. S. Eliot, “The Metaphysical Poets”

Some music for your consideration and enjoyment. Feel free to respond to any or all of this. Have you heard similar music before? Why is this relevant to Eliot’s argument about art and poetry? What exactly happened, as far as Eliot is concerned, to the English mind in the transition from the 16th to the 17th century, and why is it so significant?

“fidelity to thought and feeling”

Thomas Tallis
(1505 – 1583)

“If You Love Me”
“A New Commandment”
“Out From The Deep”


William Byrd
(1543 – 1623)

“Prevent Us, O Lord”
“O Make Thy Servant Elizabeth”


Orlando Gibbons
(1585 – 1625)

“See, See, The Word Is Incarnate”
“O God, The King of Glory”

Surprisingly, or not, Eliot would have considered the following music a serious step downward. Where is this suggested in his essays, and why would he have thought that?

“a dissociation of sensibility . . .
from which we have never recovered”

“Uh, …”

Posted: January 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

screen shot 2019-01-16 at 10.52.51 am copy

Readings for January 17th

Posted: January 15, 2019 in Readings

I thought I had posted these earlier. Unfortunately, I set the date for 2018, not 2019. Sorry for that mistake. I hope that 15 hours will be enough time for you to get through the first of Eliot’s essays. I’ll be reading right along with you.

I was very pleasantly surprised and pleased by your apparent interest in Wordsworth and Coleridge. Many students in the past, though hardly all students, have shown far less curiosity and endeavor. So, good for you. While upcoming readings will get more difficult, they will also get more unexpected and fascinating. Let’s keep up the effort and try to enjoy future assignments as much as possible. Keep in mind that we’ll most likely only have time on Thursday to discuss the first of these two essays, ‘Tradition and The Individual Talent’. We’ll get to ‘The Metaphysical Poets’ next Tuesday. Good luck with this new material!

Capitalism: What A Waste

Posted: January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

From my very favorite publisher.

Ecological crisis has driven contemporary artists to engage with waste in its most non-biodegradable forms: plastics, e-waste, toxic waste, garbage hermetically sealed in landfills. In this provocative and original book, Amanda Boetzkes links the increasing visualization of waste in contemporary art to the rise of the global oil economy and the emergence of ecological thinking. Often, when art is analyzed in relation to the political, scientific, or ecological climate, it is considered merely illustrative. Boetzkes argues that art is constitutive of an ecological consciousness, not simply an extension of it. The visual culture of waste is central to the study of the ecological condition.

This was just shared by a philosopher in exile with whom I happened to be acquainted.

It is never easy to change one’s beliefs by an exercise of will alone. … I admit I am having trouble at present differentiating between the perennial fogeyism that could always be expected of people who make it to my age (I’m 46), and the identification of a true revolutionary shift in human history.

It has come to seem to me recently that this present moment must be to language something like what the Industrial Revolution was to textiles. A writer who works on the old system of production can spend days crafting a sentence, putting what feels like a worthy idea into language, only to find, once finished, that the internet has already produced countless sentences that are more or less just like it, even if these lack the same artisanal origin story that we imagine gives writing its soul. There is, it seems to me, no more place for writers and thinkers in our future than, since the nineteenth century, there has been for weavers.

This predicament is not confined to politics, and in fact engulfs all domains of human social existence. But it perhaps crystallizes most refractively in the case of politics, so we may as well start there.

The Industrial Revolution

Posted: January 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

Joseph Wright of Derby
Arkwright‘s Cotton Mill By Night (1782)

“For, to treat the subject with the clearness and coherence of which it is susceptible, it would be necessary to give a full account of the present state of the public taste in this country, and to determine how far this taste is healthy or depraved; which, again, could not be determined, without pointing out in what manner language and the human mind act and re-act on each other, and without retracing the revolutions, not of literature alone, but likewise of society itself.”

–William Wordsworth, Preface To Lyrical Ballads (1800)

“Wolf’s Prolegomena has long been recognized as one of the most important books in the history of classical studies. . . . This English translation, with a detailed historical introduction, makes it fully accessible to the modern reader. . . . The analytical and unitarian interpretations of Homer have, indeed, been argued over ever since. It is gratifying that the work which started this famous controversy is available once again.” —H. B. Nisbet, Times Higher Education Supplement

“This is the first English translation of Wolf’s Prolegomena ad Homerum, a seminal work for classical scholarship. An introduction places Wolf in the cultural setting of eighteenth-century Germany, especially with regard to Homeric studies, showing how he was influenced by contemporary textual criticism of the Old Testament, and how Wolf’s work was originally received.”–Choice

Twenty-three poems that transformed English poetry

Wordsworth and Coleridge composed this powerful selection of poetry during their youthful and intimate friendship. Reproducing the first edition of 1798, this edition of Lyrical Ballads allows modern readers to recapture the book’s original impact. In these poems—including Wordsworth’s “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” and Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere”—the two poets exercised new energies and opened up new themes.

Shutting Down Education

Posted: January 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

I went to this government-run website in search of materials to help my teach you more effectively.

In semesters past I have assigned these materials. I will not do so now. But I do want to make key selections of English Romantic verse available for curious and motivated students. Please feel free to read and discuss these poems, if you like; but, technically, they are not on the syllabus.

If you find you loathe this stuff, please note that these pieces contrast markedly with almost everything else we will be reading this semester.

p.s. Look for the print button on the upper-right corner of the web pages hosting each poem. This may make your life easier. Also, notice that the Wordsworth poems are the longest and (by our standards) most ponderous. Things will get much briefer and lighter as you move on to the other Romantic poets.

Scholarship Opportunity

Posted: January 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

I received this email today. Perhaps it will interest some of you.

I am emailing to inform and remind you about the due date for the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) scholarship, which is January 25th, 2019.

It would be great if you could announce the scholarship to your courses so that students who might be interested in applying know of the due date.

This year the application is entirely online and a link and as well as information regarding the scholarship and eligibility requirements can be found on the following website:

If students have questions they can also email

Best regards,
Patrick Cheney
Scholarship and Events Coordinator
International and Area Studies, CTIHB 210
(801) 581-6101
University of Utah

First Readings of The Semester

Posted: January 7, 2019 in Uncategorized


William Wordsworth
(1770 – 1850)
“Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800)


Samuel Taylor Coleridge
(1772 – 1834)
The Stateman’s Manuel (1816)
Biographia Literaria (1817)

This Is The Place!

Posted: January 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

This Is The Place

This is the place where I will post our readings this semester. You can also use the blog to keep in touch with me, and ask questions and comment on assigned texts. WordPress is easy and fun to use. I know many of you will take right to it, whereas it will be new and intimidating for others. The more you follow and utilize this form, the better you will get to know my ways of thinking and my expectations regarding your work, the more help and guidance you will receive, and the more you will learn.

To follow KUBERNESIS just click the option above and to the left in the transparent toolbar.

I have used blogs with great success in variety of courses over the last seven years. It has been an tremendous resource for both my students and me. You will be amazed at how much you will learn – from me, your peers, and yourself – if you will check this site regularly and treat it not just as a task but as an expressive artistic medium, a vehicle through which to think in new and exciting ways.

Please, don’t allow yourself to become anxious about writing here. I’ve designed this as a place to diffuse anxieties and to get to know my expectations gradually, long before it’s time to write a paper. Using WordPress really is not very hard at all, and becomes increasingly fun and instructive once you get that hang of it.

Reading for March 5th

Posted: March 5, 2018 in Readings

I posted this after class the other day. But I accidentally dated it 2017. That’s why you didn’t see it till now. Sorry!


Michael Fried
(b. 1939)
“Art and Objecthood” (1967)

Minimalist Sculpture

Posted: March 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

Tony Smith
Untitled, 1960


Robert Morris
Untitled (L-Beams), 1965

Carl Andre
Steel Square, 1967


Donald Judd
Untitled, 1970


Morris Lewis
(1912 -1962)


Dalet Kaf (1959)


Floral V (1959)


Points Of Tranquility (1959)


Where (1960)


Alpha Pi (1960)


Robert Morris
(b. 1931)

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 8.41.29 PM

Untitled (1968)


Untitled (1969)


Untitled (1969)


Untitled (1970)


Untitled (1973)