[lit-ideas] Re: The perverted Logician photographer

  • From: Mike Geary <jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 13:25:32 -0500

I've sometimes wondered what the difference between "supposition" and
"presupposition" might be.  The dictionaries I've consulted list each word
as a synonym for the other and yet we all know that one word is not like
another -- there's more to the meaning of a word than mere meaning --
there's heartache and muscle, too, and tint, let's not forget tint.  Try
this, I said to myself, "The supposition that presuppositions influence a
writer's work is a common one and, I suppose, it presupposes the
supposition that presupposition is the soul of all knowledge since nothing
can be proven -- or so I presume.  "Some say Descartes put des cart before
des horse"

My above conclusions being presumably true, I wonder why then we don't
have "sumable" in our language.  "It's a sumable fact that there are no
facts" -- a would-be Nietzsche saying. That said and settled, on then to
Lawrence's presupposition that presuppositions are based on one's unique
culture --and by "unique" I mean "teeny-tiny unique", I mean "DNA
unique."  I share a lot of prejudices with my year younger brother, but we
are distinctly different people in very many ways.  He's prettier, and
taller and more circumspect when it comes to philosophical pronouncements,
but I'm older, by God, and that counts for something.  Hell, even identical
twins develop unique personalities.  That settled, we return back to unique
personality through unique history, I agree with Lawrence that no one
should be penalized for being who (whom? -- god, I hate English) they are.
But, of course, no one should be allowed to harm others -- not even
Republicans.  I'm not sure I know what Lawrence means by his question "how
do we justify penalizing a paranoiac or a schizophrenic?"  Do you mean
socially?  Legally?  Culturally?  Artistically?  Please expand on this --
other than avoidance by scared little people, I don't see the penalizing
you refer to.

Moving right along.
Memphis Mike

On Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 4:26 PM, Lawrence Helm

> Actually, the title of Edmund Wilson’s article was “C. L. Dodgson: The
> Poet-Logician,” but Wilson has very little to say about Dodgson’s poetry, a
> bit more about his achievements as a logician and quite a lot about his
> fondness for little girls.  Had I heard that before?  I can’t be sure but
> it didn’t sound utterly unfamiliar.  What was new to me was the idea that
> Dodgson was an accomplished photographer.  Helmet Gernsheim wrote *Lewis
> Carroll Photographer *in 1950.  I stopped reading, looked the book up on
> Amazon, found a paperback copy in “like new” condition for $3.95 and
> ordered it.  Turning back to Wilson I read that “Mr. Gernsheim considers
> Dodgson ‘the most outstanding photographer of children of the nineteenth
> century’ and after Julia Margaret Cameron, ‘probably the most distinguished
> amateur portraitist of the mid-Victorian era.’”  ****
> ** **
> Reading some reviews of Gernsheim’s book it seems that many in the 
> 20thcentury were convinced that Lewis Carroll was a pedophile.  Wilson
> considered that and thought not, at least not one that acted upon his
> thoughts.  But wasn’t he acting upon his thoughts by taking photos of these
> little girls, some of them nude.  Wilson observed that no one would be able
> to get away with such behavior in the 20th century – nor in the 21stcentury I 
> would add.
> ****
> ** **
> Wilson admired *Through the Looking-Glass: The Life of Lewis Carroll *by
> Florence Becker Lennon.  He notes its faults then writes, “But this study
> is, nevertheless, the best thing that has yet been written about Lewis
> Carroll.  The literary criticism is excellent; the psychological insight
> sometimes brilliant; and Mrs. Lennon has brought together, from the most
> scattered and various sources, a good deal of information.  The impression
> that she actually conveys was what Dodgson’s existence was like is more
> convincing than some of her theories.  Mrs. Lennon believes that Charles
> Dodgson was intimidated by his clergyman father, so that he felt himself
> obliged to take orders and never dared question the creed of the Church.
> She seems to believe that he might otherwise have developed as an important
> original thinker.  She also worries about what she regards as his
> frustrated sexual life: if he had only, she sighs, been capable of a mature
> attachment for a woman which would have freed him from his passion for
> little girls!”****
> ** **
> In regard to Dodgson’s novel *Sylvie and Bruno, *Wilson writes,* *“Mrs.
> Lennon has, I believe, been the first to point out the exact and complicate
> parallels between the dreams and actualities that make this book
> psychologically interesting . . . but the novel for grown-ups is otherwise
> childish; and in mathematics and logic, according to the expert opinions
> cited by Mrs. Lennon, he either ignored or had never discovered the more
> advanced work in these fields, and did not perhaps get even so far as in
> his exploration of dreams.”****
> ** **
> Wilson wrote his initial article in 1932; later, collecting it in the
> volume *The Shores of Light, *published in 1952 he added to it, primarily
> perhaps because of the publication of Gernsheim’s *Lewis Carroll
> Photographer *in 1950 and of Lennon’s *Victoria through the Looking
> Glass: The Life of Lewis Carroll *in 1945. ****
> ** **
> The originality of Dodgson might qualify him as “great” in the mind of F.
> R. Leavis as well although I don’t recall mention of Dodgson in anything
> I’ve read by Leavis.  Both Leavis and Wilson would I’m sure consider
> William Blake “great” and their opinions would be shared by Harold Bloom,
> Northrop Frye and many others, but what if Blake’s originality were fueled
> by madness?  And what if Dodgson’s were fueled by arrested development?***
> *
> ** **
> We know that any writer’s work is influenced by his presuppositions.
> Perhaps these presuppositions are based on childhood lessons, teachings and
> things a person hears or reads, but perhaps sometimes they are developed
> out of madness or other influences deviating from the “norm.”  On a scale
> of greatness where the greatest gets 100, shouldn’t we penalize such
> writers as Blake and Dodgson if their “originality” was to some extent due
> to their arrested or perverted development?   I’m inclined to penalize
> them, but I’m not sure I’m right in doing so . . . or, madness in any case
> would have to be so qualified that any penalizing would have to be severely
> questioned.  I’m thinking now of bipolar disorder which used to be called
> manic-depressive.  We all have ups and downs and writers can be expected to
> write when they are up and feeling good or perhaps down and feeling so
> depressed that only writing out of their depression can bring them relief.
> If we concede that it is okay to write when we are feeling like it and that
> it is equally okay to not write when we don’t feel like it then that puts
> into question any penalty applied to a manic-depressive.  And if we don’t
> penalize a manic-depressive, how do we justify penalizing a paranoiac or a
> schizophrenic? ****
> ** **
> Lawrence ****

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