Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-07-01 - 1:46 p.m.
James and I were comparing notes – is the gay scene still alive and well at Hoggwarts? The name Leavis came up – one the gayest was taught by him in my day James says that some of his best friends are Leavisites (he didn’t say that but I couldn’t resist the joke). Actually there was some stuff in the Guardian yesterday:
“Leavis and his peers reacted to the two-pronged challenge presented by the seeming amorality of modernist art and the cheery nihilism of industrialised popular culture; the group's stern criticism attempted to serve as a sticking plaster to place over the widening gap between art and society.
The cultural legacy of the modernists lay in notions of "difficulty" rather than complexity, a word with an equal ambivalence at its core. TS Eliot said that the reason "poetry in our civilisation as it stands must be difficult" if it is to respond to a contemporary experience which is difficult - fragmentary, elusive, multi-perspectival.
If art is to engage such experiences, it needs to reveal its workings while obscuring its intentions. A fatal aridity doomed the endeavours of Leavis and co, epitomised by the comically tiny canon he advances in The Great Tradition - three centuries of writing reduced to most of Jane Austen, bits of Dickens, and the odd passage from Conrad.
On the English scene, too often, philistinism from the cultural right combined with the inclusive cultural studies movement on the left, have fiendishly fused with the more alarming cultural flattening that forms part of the riptide of globalisation.In the wider world, the monoculture of globalisation threatens to rid the world of all that's resistant to the logic of consumption. And these threats to complexity extend beyond aesthetics into environment, governance and identity itself. There must be freedom from the homogenising tendencies of the market.
The late Edward Said, in his last filmed interview, ravaged by leukaemia, citest Gerard Manley Hopkins hymning of "all things counter, spare, original, strange", as his own lifelong credo. Is it time such stirring words were set in stone over the entrance to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport? “
Talking of culture, I have just found Widmerpool - it’s a geologic formation south of Nottingham and I suspect has something to do with the way the River Trent flows East before turning North towards the Humber. I keep meaning to visit Charnwood Forest which may also be part of the same zone of disruption.
Talking of location, when James was but a cluster of cells we spent a holiday on a farm at North Tawton in Devon – none of us including James realized that we were walking poetic ground breathing poetic air. Mannequin Land.
Paul mailed with some points about the Moslem religion and I wrote back about songwriters etc . Andrew mailed about world music. I mailed Peter C about Time and Form. Stephen mailed about continental productivity.
Yesterday Yvonne did lean surgery at the NHS – gall bladder out with a 10 hour turn around. Just as well you can phone NHS Direct in the middle of the night. While I was waiting I spent a fair amount of time on different approaches to the Sex War piece.
Coorespondence about the JCF piece Yellow Walls – how much is it like THTM?