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[Xmca-l] Re: Verismo and the Gothic

There are a number of under-theorized areas in CHAT, and one way to
recognize them is the way through subject lines on xmca. This method is not
entirely fool-proof, because people rightly develop enthusiasms for odd
topics that are actually pretty well theorized in Vygotsky's work
(development itself being one of them). But when we have subject lines on
imagination, on projects, on consciousness, on volition, and on
ethics/politics that run and run and run, it seems to me that somebodies
are trying to tell us something.

It seems to me that the issue of temporality is excellently theorized in
CHAT, at least compared to neighboring disciplines who are still
struggling to distinguish microgenesis from ontogenesis, or micro and
ontogenesis from sociogenesis, or all of the above from phylogenesis.
However, there is a closely related issue which seems less so, and which
does tend to run and run in our subject lines. Let me put it this way: when
does a collaborative project shift from being interpersonal to being
social, and what does this mean for the role of consciousness, volition,
ethics/politics and whether we divide the latter with a slash or with a

I take it that when we look at a language as a whole--that is, the some
total of all linguistic acts, whether they be inter-mental or intra-mental,
whether they be past, present, or future, carried out by a given speech
community during the rise and fall of a language--the difference between
sense and significance (that is, between actual meaning-making and
potential meaning-making) disappears, or at least recedes indefinitely.
This is really just a way of saying that language use is always, in the
final analysis, concrete and material, not speculative and hypothetical.
Whether, for example, the ancient Aztecs could have written "Fifty Shades
of Grey" if they had not been wiped out by Cortes and his men does not seem
a line of enquiry worth pursuing.

But when we look at literary genres--that is, text types and the registers
of language that can be drawn from them, such as verismo, or the Gothic, or
nineteenth century romaniticism in general--the distinction seems much more
relevant, because playing the game changes the rules: particular acts of
artistic sense-making expand or renew the meaning-making potential of
the genre and leave a kind of meta-text to be carried on as a discourse by
other artists. Catalani does something with verismo and with the Gothic
that was really not done previously, and the step he takes is noticeably in
our direction. The opera doesn't really have good guys or bad guys: La
Wally loves Hagenbach in part because he beats her father, La Wally's
attempt to murder her lover is both justified and not, La Wally's
relationship with Walter is both sexual and chaste (on the crucial night of
Hagenbach's murder, Walter asks her if he can spend the night).  More,
although the opera does have focal characters, we can easily imagine operas
around almost any one of the other characters--even Afra, the bar-maid.

If you have ten minutes to spare for some breathtakingly beautiful music,
just take a moment to compare Wally's "Eh ben? Andro lontan " ("Well, I'm
outta here")  at 32:00 with Afra's "No, con l'amor" ("The heart wants what
it wants") at 45:30. The former is a mega-hit that every ambitious
soprano without exception has to sing and record; the latter is utterly
ignored  by the repertoire as far as I know. Perhaps that is just
because Afra's song isn't an aria but a kind of collaborative
project--Walter and Hagenbach turn it into a trio at 48:00, and the Old
Toymaker comes in almost half a bar later, showing that it is
inter-generational. At the same time, each member of the trio has a very
different interpretation of the song: Afra is warning Hagenbach not to play
with Wally's feelings, Hagenbach thinks Afra is flirting with him, the Old
Toymaker is thinking nostalgic thoughts about a love-life now drowned in
beer suds, and Walter just wants to have fun, which for the moment means
singing a song whose concept he has not grasped at all (but then nobody
else has fully grasped it yet, not even Afra).

Collaborative projects, by definition, cannot have have a single guiding
consciousness, or at least cannot have a single psychology, else they cease
to be collaborative. But at a certain point they also cease to have several
different consciousnesses, and attain a generalized, abstract consciousness
(Andy calls this a consciousness a concept; I think of it as a potential
culture). The problem is precisely a temporal one: when?

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 18 February 2015 at 14:54, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:

> Hi David!
> No apology necessary! I actually watched a little of your opera. But I
> thought it was funny that it was a 2 hour opera following a 600+ book. And
> also...we are long posters!  And! And! And! This thread is about
> temporality!  :)
> Unfortunately I am not a multi-tasker, I fail miserably at that. If I
> watch opera I must watch it with all five senses. Unless it's a recording
> then with all my ears, while perhaps drawing or journaling. Unless I decide
> to lip synch and my living room becomes my stage, then it's all five senses
> again.
> The most multitasking I can do is maybe read a few papers and a few pages
> in a few books in short spurts, to put one down and pick up another until
> eventually I've read all what I set out to read. This never happens that I
> read what I set out to read, however.
> [An aside: I wonder if others would share their reading habits? How do you
> read, paper or pixels? And when do you read? And how do you like to read?]
> But actually I cherish opera David, I have fallen away from it for the
> past several years, but would gladly return were I near an opera house. I
> really like your observation of opera for cleaning the mind, that sounds
> really fab, and I think you are right.
> I love the idea of Madame Butterfly as my ear worm!  :)
> Silky ears!
> Pertaining to the Verisimo (and plastic surgery which I find somewhat
> gothic, actually), I have always considered the Gothic to be dark and
> brooding, yes, but because of a lack of hope in changing times where there
> is nothing but uncertainty, especially if one is an aristocrat. Heads
> rolling and all that. I don't know if it is possible for anything modern to
> be gothic, meaning 20th century. Is there? I can only think the of the
> Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, and Nosferatu. There's Film Noire
> which is dark, but that doesn't seem brooding or full of self loathing,
> like the silent pictures from Germany. Hitchcock maybe, but then again, he
> was German too!
> Is it possible though, that Vygotsky seemed romantic because when he wrote
> Psychology of Art he was at the beginning of his career and not the end?
> Intriguing idea to take consciousness as my hero! Say more on that?
> Atemporality vs temporality has to do with inability to measure versus
> ability to measure, in that something that is atemporal is neither an
> instant nor an eternity(though might be both) since within the atemporal
> nothing seems to change, time stands still. The present moment can have
> that aspect of complete stillness.
> Temporality, on the other metronome, is measurable, it has a rhythm
> perhaps. There is a beginning a middle and an end (narrative?), but that
> also can be in the present moment. What differs is there is a sense of time
> passing, like sitting in a train with the landscape scuttling by, or
> watching Koyaanisqatsi.
> Next: I'm thinking of an old-fashioned slide lantern that spins on its
> vertical axis with the picture is viewed through a slot which remains
> stationary. The animation occurs from the images spinning past the slot
> with the lantern projecting that image onto a far wall. We don't see the
> images coming or the images past, just the one projecting outward from the
> slot.
> My interpretation of The Vygotsky Moment is the moment of change, but this
> may not at all be instantaneous; it develops, it may be logical as you say.
> But how do we measure change if not from a stationary point in time? Yep,
> you guessed it, the present moment!
> I do not know any point in time that isn't stationary, except the present
> moment. If there is a sense of change in the present moment, that change is
> based upon attention, not upon time. So that's why I can be sitting here
> and then suddenly go to the Bahamas and then come back and realized I've
> burned my popcorn.
> Nothing happened to the present moment, just my attention shifted.
> See and this is the thing! In modern cultures, typically, the present
> moment passes us by because frequently we do not attend to it. However, it
> never leaves us, rather, we leave it with our attention even though we are
> in it (always), it is our minds that are thinking of the past or of the
> future, but rarely tending to in the present. In cultures that are more
> intertwined with nature or being in relationship with others without being
> in a hurry, I find the opposite is the case, that the present moment is all
> there is. There is a lot of leisure in this conception of time, or this
> attending to time.
> What is interesting about Verismo is that it is like a layering of
> concentric lanterns that provides a sort of psychedelic experience in which
> my attention is asking, "Will the real present moment please stand up?" And
> then all of them do (because there's only one).
> Kind regards,
> Annalisa