time & western man

Notes on the final chapter of Time & Western Man which concerns “the mind of Jocye”. here .

–I was very interested to see Lewis comment that Joyce’s work is personal, instead of merely autobiographical, which I’ve been thinking about but not managed to say. This might be the real legacy of Joyce –his craftsmanship being non-emulatable– that he took this endeavor a bit personally and we do even more.

–Claim that Ulysses is overcharged surface with wooden stock characters beneath. (It’s because the characters are characters that are real and personal to Joyce –indeed, are ultimately Joyce himself– that they remain ultimately so embryonic. Bloom as evidently Joyce himself as Daedalus is.) Elsewhere, Lewis seems to say the same of Picasso. These are mere craftsmen, whose figures, beneath their impressiveness, are dolls lacking life.

–Refreshing to read some negative criticism, particularly of a figure so lionized as Joyce. Not just negative: hostile. Also refreshing to see a criticism of Modernism that goes deeper than “it’s hard, it’s unreadable.” (It’s a criticism of perspective on Time, though in what sense remains obscure to me.)

–This criticism of a perspective on Time reminds me of my own fixation with Joyce’s “epiphany”, which I seemed to see in other writers also — but Lewis means something else. Speaks of Bergson.

–His insight, in the Stein section, that there is one side of the arts (artsiest) that strives very earnestly to represent itself as what another side strives to parody (most commercial). The serious repetition of Stein compared with the parodied repetitiousness of a child in Anita Loos.

(This section hit home for me in that I will often encounter, in my own writing, that I don’t know whether what I’m writing is serious or not. I’ll write something bland and neutral which, to be made at all interesting, to “work”, needs to be pushed towards Stein or toward Loos.)

(The idea of taking this personally…)

“The main characteristic of the Time-mind from the outset has been a hostility to what it calls the ‘spatializing’ process of a mind not a Time-mind. It is this ‘spatializing’ capacity and instinct that it everywhere assails.

In its place it would put the Time-view, the flux. It asks us to see everything sub specie temporis. It is the criticism of this view, the Time-view, from the position of the plastic or the visual intelligence, that I am submitting to the public in this book.”

After a little more skimming, what Lewis calls the time-mind does seem to have some similarity to what I think of as “epiphany” — seeing all time in one time, yet as a result, fixing all the more concretely one one’s own time. “All ages are contemporaneous.” (Pound)

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