[Work: Men and Women, Robert Browning, 1855]
A Soliloquy of Browning’s:

Art, Time, and Commodity in Robert Browning’s “A Toccata of Galuppi’s”

 

Introduction:

Portrait of Robert Browning by Thomas B. Read - A Toccata of Galuppi's - art, time, death, commodity

Portrait of Robert Browning by Thomas Buchanan Read

Before returning to a consideration of a novel next week, I would like to once more (as I did in the last article’s analysis of two-centuries-old anti-slavery poetry) carefully examine a classic poem. In this case, it will be the poem “A Toccata of Galuppi’s” from (originally) the 1855 collection Men and Women by Robert Browning, who is known for pieces of poetry with a distinct narrative voice (such that his poems can be read as dramatic monologues). “A Toccata of Galuppi’s” is about art and death and beautiful music, and the analysis below is considerably lengthy, but I hope you will grant me the time.

An attention to artifice suffuses the act of invention whereby Robert Browning’s poems proceed from deeply characterized speakers. This attention to artifice necessarily involves a consideration of the relation between that which is artificial and that which is actual—a relation that can be understood as the more general form of which the relation between art and life is a particular form.

In his poem, “A Toccata of Galuppi’s,” the relationship between art and life becomes a subject of direct address for both the speaker of the poem and the performance represented by the poem itself. The poem expresses a view of art as a permanent representation of impermanent life. For those who consume the art, it becomes a reminder of the ephemerality of pleasure and life even as it discourses on a particular subject or aspect of life, and even as it operates in a tone far afield from melancholy.

Further, the act of consuming art, Browning’s speaker contends, is an economic act wherein time is traded for participation, contributing to life’s aforementioned brevity. Browning’s poem seamlessly blends a dramatic consideration of art as an inadequate-because-eternal approximation of human life with an evaluation of the grim commodification of art as a temporal purchase. Through this combination, “A Toccata of Galuppi’s” reflects on the inadequacy of art to quell anxieties about mortality.

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[Work: Men and Women, Robert Browning, 1855]
A Soliloquy of Browning’s:

Art, Time, and Commodity in Robert Browning’s “A Toccata of Galuppi’s”

was last modified: June 15th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Poems Concerning the Slave-Trade, Robert Southey, 1797]
Sonneteer, Pamphleteer:

Analyzing Robert Southey’s use of the Sonnet Form to Combat Slavery

 

analysis of sonnet - anti-slavery poems - Robert SoutheyIntroduction:

In the line above each article, you will notice the word ‘work’ before whatever text is being considered for the week. The reason that this is labeled ‘work,’ rather than ‘book’ or ‘novel,’ is that I knew I would eventually want to cover poetry in this series as well. For the series’ first foray into verse (epic poems and early modern plays notwithstanding), I will be taking a close look at Robert Southey’s use of sonnets as a means of opposing slavery in Britain.

By definition, the notion of abolition is antithetical to constriction and conservatism. For this reason, it appears odd that abolitionist poet Robert Southey chose the sonnet, a poetic form both restrictive and traditional, to tell the story which populates roughly half of his 1797 Poems Concerning the Slave-Trade. Yet, this appearance of oddness fades with close attention to Southey’s production, a scathing indictment of both the violent ills of slavery and the apathetic British populace’s tacit support of the system.

What seems initially to be a space for old values becomes a space for reform, as Robert Southey utilizes the abiding self-consciousness of the sonnet form to extol subversion and to underscore the moral perversity of the depicted circumstances. Southey constructs a sequence of sonnets at once in command of the tools presented by the formal structure of prevailing sonnet modes and in rebellion against the expectations held by a reading public toward whom the sonnets’ speaker is outraged.

In these sonnets, Robert Southey achieves a biting synergy of working within the tradition of sonneteering (to subvert accepted virtues) and working outside of that tradition (to establish the necessity of social reform).

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[Work: Poems Concerning the Slave-Trade, Robert Southey, 1797]
Sonneteer, Pamphleteer:

Analyzing Robert Southey’s use of the Sonnet Form to Combat Slavery

was last modified: May 3rd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Art of Risk, Kayt Sukel, 2016]
Risk Defended:

On the Focused Insights and Leisurely Presentation of Kayt Sukel’s The Art of Risk

 

Introduction:

Joueurs de Cartes by Theodoor Rombouts - The Art of Risk - Kayt Sukel - method, style, review

Joueurs de Cartes by Theodoor Rombouts

The hours of work I spend on relatively tedious tasks, such as the manual optimization of image dimensions on this site, are often lightened by listening to free online courses on various topics. This past week, I have been retreading the basics of personal finance in this course by Andrew Hingston. How poetic, then, that I should have stumbled across and begun listening to a course which often speaks of risk management and risk minimization, when I was already in the midst of reading a defense of our risky behaviors: The Art of Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution, and Chance by psychologist Kayt SukelThe Art of Risk - Kayt Sukel - method, style, review.

Both individuals are students, to some degree, of behavioral economics—as formulated by, among others, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. But their application and incorporation of such insights into their own worldviews are divergent. Whereas in his course Hingston shifts his perspective toward financial priorities so that one can analytically control one’s emotional experiences, Sukel accepts research on risk-taking as an opportunity to offer a naturalistic—even rational—account of risky decision-making. So now, setting other scholars aside, I would like to evaluate Sukel’s book, first for its method and then for its style.

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[Work: The Art of Risk, Kayt Sukel, 2016]
Risk Defended:

On the Focused Insights and Leisurely Presentation of Kayt Sukel’s The Art of Risk

was last modified: April 25th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Othello, William Shakespeare, 1603]
Antagonism in Othello:

Subversive and Progressive Racial Attitudes in the Characters of Shakepeare’s Othello

 

Introduction:

The development of interpreting William Shakespeare’s plays for their progressive capabilities has been increasingly common in the modern era; Shylock, the Jewish character in The Merchant of Venice, portrayed on-stage for hundreds of years as a remorseless villain, is today played as a sympathetic and often ironic character whose persecuting is often shown to be more-or-less on-par with his persecution.

Similarly, the Othello seen in modern productions of OthelloOthello - William Shakespeare - Race, Iago is a sympathetic tragic hero, rather than a dangerous, violent, and easily manipulated caricature. Yet, while some ambiguity about the nature of the character of Othello is inherent to the text, and even in keeping with the academic sentiment that the interpretation of art is more reflective of the morality of the reader than of any ‘opinions’ one may find in the work, Othello seems to contain a far more progressive element than The Merchant of Venice—in its antagonist, who in Othello is (of course) not the racialized character, but Iago.

The character of Iago is unambiguously the antagonist of the play, and, beyond this, serves as both the catalyst to the events of the play and as the detractor or destroyer, either directly or by extension, of every character who falls in the play. Indeed, in Othello, the character of Iago does more to challenge racial stereotypes contemporary with Shakespeare’s writing thereof than does the character of Othello to affirm them.

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[Work: Othello, William Shakespeare, 1603]
Antagonism in Othello:

Subversive and Progressive Racial Attitudes in the Characters of Shakepeare’s Othello

was last modified: April 12th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle, 1996]
Not Himself:

Roddy Doyle’s The Woman who Walked into Doors and the Ethics of Representation

 

Introduction:

Roddy Doyle Sketch by M.R.P. - The Woman who Walked into Doors - representation abuse poverty

Sketch by M.R.P.

The Woman who Walked into Doors, written by Booker Award-winning Irish novelist Roddy Doyle, is a novel from 1996 with a strange pedigree. Its narrative began life as part of an award-winning 1994 television miniseries called Family, also written by Doyle. It was then partially ‘novelized’ to produce the work in question.

Despite being a novelization of a multimedia production—a strategy most well known for its overabundance of slapdash cash grabs—The Woman who Walked into Doors is an excellent novel. But its origin is not the subject of this article, and its quality is secondary to that subject; the subject of this article is the book’s representation of its narrator and protagonist, a working class woman who is abused by her husband, who cares deeply for her child, and who develops a drinking problem.

In particular, this article intends to consider a point of view which I have encountered over and over again in academic, professional, and casual discussions of different works of art. It is a point of view to which I am sympathetic, but with some serious reservations, and it is something that I can not help but think about when working on my own creative writing. It can be summed up relatively well as follows: ‘It is disingenuous or morally questionable for an artist to assume the perspective of a person with an identity the artist does not personally possess, especially when that identity is underprivileged, disadvantaged, or underrepresented in the artist’s culture.’ This is a delicate topic, and one I intend to give a fair consideration.

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[Work: The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle, 1996]
Not Himself:

Roddy Doyle’s The Woman who Walked into Doors and the Ethics of Representation

was last modified: December 21st, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski