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ISSUE ONE

S P RI N G 2014


ISSUE ONE

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S P RI N G 2014


EDITORS: Joseph Storey Kevin Foster Greg Frank Cover art, “Crimea,” by Caleb Gregory (“Crimea” photographed by Brett Price) Julep is a nonprofit corporation of Tennessee. Send comments, questions, and submissions to editors@julepjournal. Copyright © 2014 Julep, Nashville TN. All rights reserved. First Printing, April 2014. www.julepjournal.com


CONTENTS 6.

F R O M T H E E D I T O R S

.............................................................................................................................. THE WIND -U P

13

T H E R O N S P I E G L

............................................................................................................................... HAIKU

14

B E N R I C H A R D S O N

............................................................................................................................... P O E T RY, N O S TA L GI A & C H I L DH O O D

25

H E A T H E R H A Y D E N

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THERON SPIEGL

...............................................................................................................................

............................................................................................................................... S PA D E S

48

C A L E B G R E G O R Y

............................................................................................................................... N E IGH B O R I NG H OU S E S T U DY 2

THERON SPIEGL

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PETER KURYL A

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...............................................................................................................................

............................................................................................................................... R O O T S , ROU T E S , A N D T H E P O S T- C I V I L R IGH T S S OU T H

CALEB GREGORY

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............................................................................................................................... N E IGH B O R I NG H OU S E S T U DY 3

T H E R O N S P I E G L

71

W H I T S M I T H

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...............................................................................................................................

............................................................................................................................... S E L E C T E D P O E M S

C A L E B G R E G O R Y

86

............................................................................................................................... N E IGH B O R I NG H OU S E S T U DY 5

T H E R O N S P I E G L

87

...............................................................................................................................

K E I T H J O H N S O N

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............................................................................................................................... JAC O B K L E I N ’ S A P O R I A O F N U M B E R

T H E R O N S P I E G L

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A B O U T T H E C O N T R I B U T O R S

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...............................................................................................................................

...............................................................................................................................


FROM THE EDITORS THE WIND-UP

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N

early one hundred years ago, H.L . Mencken i n fa mou sly t r a she d t he c u lt u r a l c o nd it io n of t he S out h i n h i s e ss ay, “ T he S a h a r a of t h e Bozart.” Without delay, Mencken shoots to kill: “Down there a poet is now almost as rare as an oboeplayer, a dry-point etcher or a metaphysician…[The South] is almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually, cultura lly, as the Sa ha ra Deser t. There a re si ngle acres in Europe that house more first-rate men then all the states south of the Potomac.” Well, first of all – Screw that guy. But seriously, in retrospect it is truly remarkable that Mencken could so confidently condemn the very same region that is now rapturously lauded by the cultural cognoscenti far and wide, with praise and thanksgiving rolling in every week. Things have certainly changed. But what is goi ng on here? We a ll k now about the New South’s economic resur rection i n the 20 t h centur y, but that story isn’t sufficient to explain the South’s growing reputation as a cultural mecca nor its unique character. It would also be inappropriate to deem what i s h a p p e n i n g a “ R e n a i s s a n c e ,” b e c a u s e n o t h i n g i n particular is returning or reviving. Instead, today’s South is fresh, rebellious, and radically innovative. Furthermore, this “freshness” seems to exist outside the current of modernity itself, outside the conventional pattern of modern cultural progress; in this South there is a glimmer of true, almost miraculous originality. In a word, it is youthful. This is the Young South. There is an inconsistency in this South that in turn defines its creative potential. Yoked to a nearly ubiquitous cultural identity, the region is also increasingly composed and influenced by diverse men and women who are not connected to and even resist the extent of this shared heritage. And yet the traditions of the South are preserved in habit, disposition, and manner. This makes for a unique dynamic. While the communities of the South are now radically heterogeneous, there remain patterns of custom and discourse which

FROM THE EDITORS

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intrinsically enable communication between people. The habits of politeness, friendliness, and general neighborliness inherited from rural-aristocratic lifeways in the Old South have been stripped of their socio -economic and exclusionary contexts, generalized into abstract form, and translated into customs fit for the 21 st century. Mixing this communicative sociabi lity with the diversity of the moder n world results i n the potentia l for profound sy nthesis a nd collaboration. Of course, this is just a fancy way of saying that Southern cities have all the fun cultural chops of sophisticated metropolises without the dayto-day hostility stereotypical for big cities, an observation familiar to those who live or have visited here recently. “You get the best of both worlds,” they say. //

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We must admit that the general descriptions above were made primarily with our hometown, Nashville, in mind, though we believe they apply to many other municipalities in the region. If you will hang with us, we are going to hone -in on Nashville for a few paragraphs, it being a sort of archetype of the Young South. Call it a microcosmic exegesis, conducted out of civic affection. In 2014, no one can deny that Nashville is one of the great cultural centers of our nation. But it is less clear how this systemic development has occurred. The routine account, which points to the influence of the vigorous music industry as well as technology coming out of healthcare and other business sectors, is not w rong. However, we wou ld l i ke to propose a supplemental theory to this conventional narrative: It is precisely the decline of the traditional music industry that is to be credited for much of the recent cultural and creative surplus in Nashville. Nashville has been affected in two key ways by the music industry’s decade-and-a-half or so of contraction. The first is that the industry’s brutal economic environment

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requires those involved to completely reevaluate their business models. This applies as equally to individual musicians as to the publishing companies. Facing a digital world where the marginal reproduction cost for their traditional products approaches zero, those in the music industry are forced to dramatically restructure their way of making money from music. The openended nature of the industry (as art/entertainment) means that there actually are new potential ways to thrive in this new economic environment. A sort of meta-creativity is cultivated and can be productive. This can be contrasted with struggling manufacturing industries, where blunt physical realities allow domestic manufacturer few creative options when faced with outsourced competition. In the music industry, the systemic disruption can itself be overcome through innovative, constructive disruption by industry players. The other side of the music industry’s waning condition is that fewer people can actually get into the business. A s mu s ic - r el ate d c a r e e r s b e c o me le s s s t a ble o r lucrative, individuals (especially younger ones) move into other industries and social spheres. Anyone who has attended Belmont University understands how many hopefuls come to Nashville for music, and how few make it happen (yes, our tone is wistful, no, we don’t want to talk about it). This surplus of “creativetypes” engaged in traditionally “non-creative” work mea ns that the socia l a nd economic la ndsc ape of Nashville is saturated with men and women willing and able to innovate, problem-solve, and stay open to new approaches. Abundant ingenuity, combined with civic, institutional, and community leadership facilitate opportunities for the weird, the sophisticated, and the idealistic to overlap and coexist in Nashville. Here are Tomato Arts Festivals, Entrepreneurship Centers, and Freakin’ Weekends. Here are cutting-edge performance venues down the street from maximum-security prisons, and denim shops in renovated gas-stations. Best of all,

FROM THE EDITORS

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here you will find communities that manage to be both invigorating and inviting. And this combination holds true for the region more broadly; it is the flavor of the Young South. It is a forward-facing region firmly composing its own identity in the din of the 21st century. Rather than compete on the same grounds as other cosmopolitan regions or reconstitute its own traditional archetypes, the Young South forms new vocabularies and modes of expression. What it needs now are platforms through which it can articulate its evolving identity. Julep is such a platform – a non-profit, independent journal of and for this Young South, aimed at providing a rigorous and dynamic space for the region’s expressions. //

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Please do not mistake our optimism for naiveté; there is no question that profound hypocrisies, hostilities, and inequities endure in our region from which the Young South is not exempt. Neighborhood gentrification. Chronic unemployment. Food deserts. Sprawl. Gender and racial discrimination. The Income Gap. This is some pervasive, messed-up shit, and it would be fundamentally dishonest to ignore such issues. Moreover, we cannot hope to create sincere communities until we consider our society in its entirety. Julep is founded on the conviction that dialogue and expression are vital components of this process. In this way, Julep carries the torch of a long tradition, from the Republic of Letters in the 1700s, to Partisan Review and the New York Intellectuals last century, all the way to n+1 and similar publications today. What ties this disparate tradition together is the radical belief that art, culture, and writing possess real power and – flung together – can change the structures of our world. By creating a space where opinions, culture, and ideas play and combat, a publication can operate as a sort of prototypical democratic sphere, enabling

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the transition from where we are to where we want to be. The point is this: Julep will not be a lifestyle accessory. It will host the provocative and the wild. Through art and essay, Julep will push readers and writers to confront and develop their own values in the context of their communities. We must strive to build a culture of integrity as well as innovation. And there is no better way to begin this project than with the writings of this first issue. Ben Richardson contemplates ch i ldhood a nd nosta lgia th rough a n interview with Mark Jarman and the poetry of Jarman, Jo e Bolton , a nd D on a ld Just ic e. He at her H ayden explores gender identity in the South in a panel-based narrative. Peter Kuryla follows with a rereading of V.S. Naipaul’s travelogue, A Turn in the South, that challenges notions of a post-civil rights South. Whit Smith emanates a selection of poems as playful as they are reverent. Keith Johnson ends the issue with a meticulous discussion of number, Jacob Klein, and our conception of modernity. Between these pieces, Theron Spiegl transitions us from author to author via haiku. Holding everything together is Caleb Gregory’s cover art, evoking a fever dream of the Crimean Crisis. All of these pieces and writers exemplify the Young South. Next issue there will be a section dedicated to readers’ comments, so if you have thoughts about the works in this issue or the journal generally, send them to editors@julepjournal.com. The submission period for the second issue will open up in late spring. We will need help as it grows, so please contact us if you are interested in getting involved. Welc ome to t he You ng S out h , a nd t h a n k you for supporting Julep. - Joseph Storey, Kevin Foster, & Greg Frank

FROM THE EDITORS

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THANK YOU We are grateful for the support of the following individuals, who made this first printing possible:

Mark Anderson Eric Deems Larry & Lisa Foster Kristine LaLonde & Claudio Mosse Jim Schmidt & Joe Woolley Tom & Jane Smith Tyler Thomason


TIRED OF SHELV ES A ND PICTURES

THERON SPIEGL

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POETRY, NOSTA LGIA & CHILDHOOD: A N I N T E RV I E W W I T H M A R K JA R M A N

BEN RICHARDSON

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Men at forty Learn to close softly The doors to rooms they will not be Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing, They feel it Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors They rediscover The face of the boy as he practices tying His father’s tie in secret

And the face of that father, Still warm with the mystery of lather. They are more fathers than sons themselves now, Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound Of the crickets, immense, Filling the woods at the foot of the slope Behind their mortgaged houses.

– Donald Justice, “Men at Forty”

W

e call it the gloaming. In memory, I first read this poem when it was summer – the kind of Nashville summer that window A.C. units can never catch up with. The kind of summer that brings night sweats, soaked sheets, dead air, one “long night [of] endless Nashvilles.”1 And I thought I understood Justice. Over a year and a half later, I am still not 40, and I still do not have a mortgage. I do wonder though if I

1

Bolton, Joe. Lines for Hank Williams.

BEN RICHARDSON

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felt the spread of nostalgia Justice knows. It’s a deep systemic kind of nostalgia, and I think you probably know it, too. It’s the kind of feeling that percolates in the front of the chest, like your entire thoracic cavity is being pulled forward, but by what no one can say. It ’s t h e w ay yo u c o me s o c lo s e to s p e a k i n g , but stop bec ause you’re u nsu re i f you c ou ld act u a l ly reanimate the thought with words if you tried. It’s the way the gloaming lasts for twenty minutes, but in hindsight, was only really there for a few brief seconds. And it’s the way you can remember none of this an hour later, standing over your stove or in front of your television or on the sidewalk trying to decide if you want to be here or if you want to be there, here and there being relative to the recently-forgotten you that you’re trying to re-remember. If this makes any sense, then maybe you understand Justice’s nostalgia, his longing for the rooms of memory lurking behind softly closed doors of the past. //

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Nostalgia is a knife-edge stretched before and behind us. Beneath lies sentimentality’s solitary abyss. //

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They sense that something Needs to be done or said – Anything but this feeling of themselves As figures held in the motion Of some lost moment. And yet they can’t seem to move, to speak, Maybe thinking they won’t have this clarity Again for a long time, maybe amazed At the distance from which they see themselves:

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Luminous, hardly human, And already half in love with the beautiful ruins.

- Joe Bolton, “The Parthenon at Nashville” //

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Th is after noon, I’m speak i ng with the poet M a rk Jarman. Jarman is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University; he has published 12 books of poetry and prose, and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including multiple National Endowment for the Arts Grants, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and the title of National Book Circle Awards Finalist. (In retrospect, I’m not sure why he granted me an interview, but I’m nervously happy to be here just the same.) He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, where he studied under the late Donald Justice. He is currently an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review. Jarman’s office is in Benson Old Central, one of the most beautiful and revered buildings on campus, set bet ween mag n i fic ent o a k t rees, wh ich a re pret t y much the ubiquitous hallmark of Old Money Academia in the South – the only natural hallmark, at least. The building is brick with haphazard modern additions, a nd renow ned i n its ow n right, havi ng been home to many late Southern poets and writers, including, perhaps most notably, Robert Penn Warren. But who is Mark Jarman, and why should you care? Mark Jarman is your favorite professor. He is comfortable; he is relaxed; he speaks slowly, as if every word is significant: vocabulary, diction, syntax… all c a r ef u l ly c h o s e n , a l l pu r p o s e - d r ive n . He i s t h e kind of guy who can quote lines of poetry that are

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remarkably pertinent to a conversation; and he does this without any pretension, which is always worth noting whenever you comment that someone “can quote lines of poetry.” But more than these things, Mark Jarman is a true poet, a poet who will unabashedly explore the oft assumed-to -be-contradictory themes of faith, sacredness, rationality – themes often sidelined by contemporary poetry. And he does this without straying into idle romanticism, and certainly not into the self-indulgent-cum-self-exploitive territory that plagues so many of today’s poetry blogs and publications. That being the case, I’ll redact the ‘unabashedly’ adverb bec ause, w it h Ja r ma n , t here just c ou ld n’t be t he opportunity for embarrassment. And the “why should you care” part? Well, aren’t you kind of worn out on McSweeney’s? //

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“It’s almost impossible to share your own nostalgia,” says Ja r ma n. “ It ’s l i ke get t i ng pe ople i nterested in your own dreams or therapy. It’s interesting to you. So, the challenge of nostalgia is to remember that the Greek meaning of the word is ‘the painful return home.’ Almost idiomatically it could be seen as ‘the i mpossibi lity,’ or ‘you c a n’t go back home aga i n.’ Nostos, home. Algia, pain. ‘Homesickness’ is another translation of nostalgia.” Our discussion of nostalgia is not happenstance. Much of Jarman’s poetry is marked with this poignant sense of nostalgia. It first sparked my interest as a poetic theme when I heard him speak at the Southern Literary

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Festival in 2012, his poems that afternoon resonating with a distinct homesickness that was able to steer clear of sentimentality. In some works his nostalgia appears more prominently: earlier poems like T he Supremes and Ground Swell, which recall a childhood in Redondo Beach, California, come to mind. At other times, his nostalgic sense for childhood and the past is more enigmatic, as it is in poems like Fox Night, surfacing for a few lines, and submerging once more before moving on. Though h is more recent poems push questions of faith, Jarman’s marked sense of nostalgia endures. He begins to talk of The Supremes and his childhood i n Redondo Beach, where the days just outside of Los Angeles were blank spaces of time reserved for pure, irreplaceable surfing and sun. “Two of my most nostalgic poems, in a way,” he remarks, “are about surfing. How many people have surfed? I don’t even surf anymore. But, the reason that I think they mean something to other people is that I can say, Here’s surfing. But, remember the 60s, and the music of the Supremes, and how things felt then? “A nd , even i f you weren’t a l ive t hen , you c a n get a sense from the poem, of what it’s like to leave a place, and never go back, which is what The Supremes is about: having to forgo the place [that] you felt was the good place, the locus amoenus.” Every day of a summer can turn, From one moment, into a single day. I saw Diana Ross in her first film Play a brief scene by the Pacific – And that was the summer it brought back.

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Mornings we paddled out, the waves Would be little more than embellishments – Lathework and spun glass, Gray-green with cold, but f lawless. When the sun burned through the light fog, They would warm and swell, Wind-scaled and ragged, And radios up and down the beach Would burst on with her voice.

- from The Supremes

As Jarman shares the people and places of his childhood, he is diligent in separating his 61-year old self from the poet who ex perienced those th i ngs. Speak i ng of nostalgia, he says, “I think that you outgrow it. One of the things that bothered me most when I got into middle age was the recognition that I didn’t feel particularly homesick for the places where I was a child anymore. I don’t feel the kind of yearning I felt for [California] when I realized I would never get to live there. For a long time, through my 20s and 30s, it pained me greatly. I don’t feel that anymore.” As Jarman talks about this sense of nostalgia dissipating with age, it’s possible to feel either a sense of freedom or a sense of entrapment. By casting off the burdens of nostalgia – homesickness – one can find freedom; there’s no more striving for something that will never be reclaimed. However, the other end of that rope can leave one tangled, left with a sense of despair. Our obvious inability in childhood to express the adult self, paired with the lack of adult interest in our former nostalgia for childhood, leaves a void in our pasts. Here we are, trapped in our adult selves, no longer sympathetic to the lost childhood, but never having thoroughly expressed it either.

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I ask Jarman if he thinks it’s possible to view the past unadulterated, the past and nothing more, without the lens of adulthood fi lteri ng a nd obscuri ng our vision. The question excites him and leads us into a discussion of several poets, but most significantly, Rimbaud. Jarman wonders aloud, “Could we even be capable as a child of expressing what it is to be a child in the language of a child? Something about putting words on a page requires a certain kind of maturity, I think – to do it well, without clichés.” It is tragic – almost an injustice – that the most formative years of life are lived without the necessary maturity for putting words to paper. As quickly as we experience the dramatic transformations of childhood, they are lost to memory, sealed away (if saved at all) behind the disfiguring glass of adulthood. “You could think of the great boy poets like Rimbaud,” suggests Jarman, “whose great gift as this precocious fifteen year old (and Dylan Thomas had it, too) was to sound like an adult as he looked at – in Rimbaud’s case – punctured sentimental notions of what childhood was. You think of a poem by Rimbaud, a poet at seven years old… he gives you a great sense of that world in which the child is contained, and almost to a claustrophobic level. He’s trying to hold onto ‘being a child,’ while all of this other stuff is pressing in, including the need to grow up.” A s we ta lk about ch i ld hood a nd lost nosta lg i a , I’m reminded of a poem by a young Kentuckian, Joe Bolton, 2 In Search of the Other World. In the poem, Bolton, as a young child, listens to stories about his mother’s nostalgia for her childhood, not fully aware,

Both Bolton and Jarman were students of Donald Justice, though their studies were separated by many years. 2

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himself, of their significance. There’s a sense of both repetition and immediacy developing in the poem, as Bolton’s mother recounts childhood memories. Bolton muses: For years / I ex pected to meet her alcoholic fa th e r/ W h o th re w th e fa r m a wa y g iv i n g s u m m e r picnics. /(Done in the high Southern style, / They were the talk of Todd County.). And, yet, the adult Bolton returns to us to share his own nostalgia – seemingly just as dark – recalling his early memories while on a walk through the streets of Houston, the urgent autumn dusk shifting to night around him. For the poet, the future lay empty, and the past – no matter how rose-colored he acknowledges it to be – is all that’s worth remembering: The future/ T ur ned out to be little consolation / For those chill Kentucky twilights/When our every parting seemed final. For Bolton, who tragically committed suicide in March 1991 at the young age of 28, the veil of a dark future never lifted, and he left this world with a permanent nostalgia, an irreplaceable feeling that Jarman might a rg ue c ou ld h ave b e e n c u re d w it h t i me . T h ough it would, of course, be foolish to attribute Bolton’s suicide to feelings of nostalgia, anyone who reads his work can clearly discern his deep, insatiable longing for the past. As Jarman said earlier, we can outgrow even our deepest feelings of nostalgia with time. Tonight, on my apartment stoop – my “postage stamp of native soil,” to quote Faulkner – I’m reading through Justice’s poem, Men at Forty, one more time. But this time it reads differently. Yes, Justice is expressing his sentiments about a seemingly permanent void. There is a n i na rg uable empti ness i n h is subjects,

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a search for meaning. But, at the same time, Justice c a r efu l ly g ive s t he p o em t he t it le Me n a t Fo r t y. Not Sixty, not Eighty, but Forty, as if to say that the condition of nostalgia can only last so long before it fades. The men in Justice’s poem do not put up a fight in closing doors; they Learn to close softly/ The doors to rooms they will not be/Coming back to. Perhaps nostalgia does indeed fade. Perhaps memories of childhood – homesickness – leave all of us; and, perhaps that’s fine. I think Jarman said it best when he told me: “Rousseau and the philosophers of the 18 th century realized that there was something in the child that gets lost, and its final expression is in Rimbaud, the seven year old poet… you cling as hard as you can to your little private world. Or, as he says at the end of The Drunken Boat, you end up sailing under the eyes of prison ships – after you’ve had this wonderful voyage – into adulthood.”

The children are hiding among the raspberry canes.    They look big to one another, the garden small.    Already in their mouths this soft fruit    That lasts so brief ly in the supermarket    Tastes like the past. The gritty wall,    Behind the veil of leaves, is hollow. There are yellow wasps inside it. The children know.    They know the wall is hard, although it hums. They know a lot and will not forget it soon. When did we forget? But we were never    Children, never found where they were hiding And hid with them, never followed    The wasp down into its nest With a fingertip that still tingles.

BEN RICHARDSON

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We lie in bed at night, thinking about The future, always the future, always forgetting That it will be the past, hard and hollow,    Veiled and humming, soon enough.

- The Children by Mark Jarman

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ASHAMED AND LOVE-DRUNK AND DRUNK

THERON SPIEGL

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SPADES HE AT HER H AY DEN

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PART 1

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1. CRE AT IN G SO M E T HIN G IN M Y M IN D T H AT DO ES N ’ T

SHE’S THERE WITH HIM

A C T U A L LY E X I S T

H E ’ S C L E A R LY C H A R M I N G

ALL PRESENT ARE DRAWN INTO HIS PLEASANT DEMEANOR

B O U N C Y, B O Y I S H C U R L S

2. REFUSING TO ACK N OW L EDG E W H AT M Y EMOTIONS ARE REACTING TO

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A FEW OF THEM L AUGH

S H E C A N ’ T,

AT HIS SIG N A L

M AY B E W O N ’ T

3 . T H I N G A LT E R I N G S O M U C H T H AT W H AT E V ER P OSI T I V E

HE L AUGHS

CONNECTION BE T WEEN US CANNOT BE REGAINED

4. H AT IN G A P ERSO N SHE SEES HIS SMILE;

OR THING BECAUSE OF MY

HER STOMACH DROPS

UN W IL L IN G NES S TO FACE A N U N CO M FO RTA BL E RE A L I T Y

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HIS TEETH

THOSE TEETH

T H AT TO OT H

A BLUENESS IN THE FL AWLESS WHITE

H E AT H E R H AY D E N


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PA L E WAVES, SOF T CURVES

5. T H AT I H AV E M A DE A

UNDER KNUCKLES

REG RE T TA BL E M IS TA K E

SHE’S THERE WITH HIM

YOUR BACK ,

HIS L AUGH

YOUR SPINE

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SHE SMILES,

WAVES GOODBYE,

TA P S HIS H A N D

H O L DS HER BRE AT H

SHE’S MADE IT OUTSIDE,

SHE’S IN THE CAR.

TUCKS HERSELF DEEPER

T HE DOOR IS CLOSED.

I N T O H E R C O A T.

SHE BRE AT HES.

6. T H AT BY DOI N G A N Y

SHE HE AVES.

OF THE ABOVE, I AM CAUSING HARM

SHE WEEPS.

TO SOMEONE I CARE ABOUT

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PART 2

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THE ONCOMING TRAFFIC L IGH T S UP HER FACE

S H E A D J U S T S I N H E R S E A T.

CHECKS THE TIME ON THE DASH.

SHE SIGHS.

LEANS BACK.

SHE COULDN’ T HAV E NOTICED THE LIGHTS WERE STILL ON

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T HE T V H A S S TAY ED

HER NECK WAS BARE

LIT FOR HOURS

A NOSE TUCKED IN

THERE’S NO MORE

SOMEONE ELSE’S HAIR

TRAFFIC AHEAD

SHE ROLLS OVER IN HER BED

A NOSE WARM UNDER AN EAR

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THE ROAD IS BL ANK,

HER FACE F LUSHES

AND DARK

SHE LEANS IN TO TURN OFF THE LIGHT

HER EYES WARM

THE PAL M COMPRESSING ITS SHAPE ONTO ANOTHER’S THIGH

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SHE DOESN’T SEE THE T V

SHE SLOWS THE CAR

SHE ROLLS OVER

SHE STOPS THE CAR

SHE MAKES A WOMB IN HER BED

THE THIGH UNDER A PAL M

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THE T V FLICKERS

HEADLIGHTS GO OUT

ONE BROW AGAINST THE OTHER’S TEMPLE

THE T V FLICKERS

SHE LOOKS OUT INTO THE NIGHT

SHE F EEL S T HE SE N S AT IO N OF ANOTHER

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HANDS ROLL OVER

SHE STEPS OUT ONTO SOIL

HER STEPS DON’T ECHO

ADJUST IN THE PRESSURE

COLL ARBONES

JOINTS PRESS INTO EACH OTHER

HER H AIR FA L L S IN HER FACE,

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EYES OPEN


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THE T V FLICKERS

HER HAIR SHIMMERS AS IF UNDERWATER

NE ARBY FOOTSTEPS CE ASE

T HE CRE AT URE SHI V ERS

SHE BRE AT HES

IT’S A DEER

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T H E B O D I E S M A K E C O N T A C T,

DON’T MOVE

OVERL AP

T HE Y BRE AT HE TO G E T HER

SHE REACHES OUT

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THEY’RE ALONE TOGETHER

IT SHIVERS

THE T V FLICKERS

SHE’S FA L L EN A SL EEP

SHE HEARS NOTHING

IT ’S VA NISHED

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SHE’S STILL

HER H A N DS DRO P AT HER SIDE

THEY FUMBLE IN EACH

LIGHTS APPEAR

OTHER’S WEIGHT

I N T HE DIS TA N CE

L I T U P H E R B O D Y,

NEITHER CAN SEE WHERE THE

SHE IS ALONE

OTHER’S HANDS ARE REACHING

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PART 3

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“ C A L L T O M E A N D I W IL L ANSWER AND SHOW YOU MANY G R E AT A N D M I G H T Y T H IN G S YOU D O NOT KNOW ” JEREMIAH 33:3

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A PROFESSOR FROM MY

BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO

SCHOOL GOT FIRED

KIND TO A STUDENT

I LIED WHEN I WOULD

W H E N R E A L LY I H A D B E E N

RUN IN TO SOMEONE

LOOKING FOR YOU

C O I N C I D E N T A L LY

A T R A N SIE N T DES T IN AT IO N

TA K I N G PAT HS A N D W RO N G

H E AT H E R H AY D E N

TURNS WITH PURPOSE


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IN HOPES OF SEEING YOU ALONE

OR L E AVING YOUR A PA RT MEN T BL A N K FACED

THE GIRL WAS SO AFRAID

SHE LIED

O F T HE HEL L BE N E AT H HER

AND TO BE SO CURSED AS TO LOVE ANOTHER WOMAN

SOMEONE WHO DID NOTHING BORE THE WEIGHT OF AN EN TIRE PEOPLE’S FE AR

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FAT H E R S A N D T E A C H E R S ! S E E IN G IN P E O P L E T H E V I S IB L E E V I D E N C E O F IN N E R S E L F T H O U G H T B Y T H E I R T R E AT M E N T OF ME: WHO LOVES H IM S E L F L O V E S M E W H O L O V E M Y S E L F. ALLEN GINSBERG F R O M “ S AT H E R G AT E I L L U M I N AT I O N ” 19 5 5

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CALEB GREGORY

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RAIN CAME WITHOUT CLOUDS I CAN SMELL THE PAV EMENT ’S SURPRISE

THERON SPIEGL

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ROOTS, ROUTES, AND THE POST- CIVIL RIGHTS SOUTH R ER EA DING V. S. NAIPAU L’S A TUR N IN THE SOU TH

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V.S.

N a i p a u l ’s t r ave l o g u e A T u r n i n the South has proven a deceptively complex book some twenty-five or so years on. Since it first appeared in 1989, many critics’ treatment of T ur n paralleled larger debates about Naipaul’s merits as a travel writer, so that for some, his take on African Americans there seemed calloused, shortsighted, or typically racist. 1 (Of course, there are also the facets of Naipaul the scoundrel to contend with: the wounded neo-colonial apologist, inveterate snob and/or misogynist--take your pick.) Still, A Turn in the South gave readers a far less acid observer in the novelist, a “kinder, gentler Naipaul” in the era of his fictional, elegiac memoir, The Enigma of Arrival. 2 This time around he took to Southern varieties of religious experience as a kind of personal therapy, and as a window into the region’s apparently uneasy, yet somehow work able t r uc e w it h moder n it y. 3 At points nostalgic and even a little sentimental, Naipaul seemed more attuned than ever before to the past and to memory: his own and those of his subjects. The late Eugene Genovese caught on to this, plopping him down beside Southern traditionalist conservatives, rather perversely recasting the celebrant of “our universal civilization,” as transatlantic avatar of, of all things, g o o d old - fa s h i o n e d A g r a r i a n i s m . “ F o r t u n ately,” Genovese wrote,

t h e r e i s mu c h h e r e [i n T u r n i n t h e S o u t h] to demonstrate that the South of distinctive history, t rad it ion , a nd cu lt u re is rec ed i ng on ly slowly and unevenly -- and that the stubborn qualities may once aga i n disappoi nt a nd astonish uncompre hending outsiders who...assure us that the South is becoming just like the rest of America.4

1

A good is example is Joan Dayan’s review of Rob Nixon’s London Calling,

“Gothic Naipaul” Transition 59 (1993), 158-170. Rob Nixon, L ondon C alling: V. S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin ( New York: Oxford, 1992): 159. 2

“therapeutic” value is from an unpublished paper by Stephen P. Miller in the author’s possession, “Modernity and its Necessary Discontents: V.S. Naipaul’s A Turn in the South.” 3

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Sur prisi ngly, there’s a stra ngely compel li ng logic here, but it treads on familiar, well-rutted paths. Turn is worth reading anew or at least a little differently though, apart from the familiar criticisms of Naipaul and Naipauliana, and acknowledging - - yet not embracing--the essentialist lapses of the book. (One could indulge just this sort of reading of it as a favorite parlor game. I do this with my students when I teach the book. Perhaps Naipaul misses too many presumably “quintessentially” Southern things, so that simple omissions and small slights make his larger conclusions dubious. For example, no accurate accounting of the South could possibly skip Southeastern Conference football, and no honest aficionado of Southern culture orders quiche in a North Carolina restaurant, as Naipaul does in the last chapter of the book. Whatever the case, the South is essentialized.) But, how does one read this oft-interpreted text differently, without the totalizing lurk of the essential? Inevitably, reading against that grain means a more deta i led, descriptive sense of the politics that lie behind Naipaul’s spare, unadorned prose, and within the rather intricate structure of his narrative. By these lights, Turn appears as a rather oddly compelling piece of post-civil rights era writing, which isn’t an entirely good, nor an entirely bad, thing. It partly belongs amidst an emerging literature in and of the post civil rights era that has become increasingly critical of modern movement’s active memorialization, and less successfully, of its status as an establishment that somehow discourages racial reconciliation. 5 Naipaul’s text anticipated this emerging interpretive climate less for the novelist’s sense of Southerners’

Eugene D. Genovese, “They’ll Take Their Stand,” The New Republic 200, 7 (13 February 1989): 31. 4

For example, Renee C. Romano and Leigh Raiford, eds., T he Civil Rights Movement in American Memory (Athens, University of Georgia, 2006). 5

James Clifford, Travel and Translation in the L ate Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Harvard, 1997) and Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness (Cambridge, Harvard, 1993). 6

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rooted racial ideas and “mind,” than for the routes of his own peregrinations, in Africa and the Caribbean especially (to deploy James Clifford and Paul Gilroy’s uses of the roots/routes pun). 6 While it has become commonplace to associate roots with racism and bloodthinking (patria and the like), Naipaul underscores the postcolonial (routed) contours of racism, which can suggest a rather ironic, but nonetheless useful trajectory for the idea of civil rights in the United States. Put simply, because of his idiosyncratic racial thinking and approach to writing, Naipaul opens up some genuinely fruitful directions for talking about what is increasingly being described as post- civil rights era political culture in the South.

PROSE AND POLITICS “Certain emotions bridge the years and link un l i kely pl ac e s . S omet i me s by t h i s l i n k i ng t he sense of pl ac e is dest royed , we a re ou rselves a lone: t he you ng ma n , t he boy, t he ch i ld . T he physical world, which we yet continue to prove, i s t he n a pr ivate fabr ic at io n we h ave a lways known” (154). -- The Mimic Men [1967]

A

mong the real perils in trying to read Naipaul aright is his prose. Despite a purported dislike for music generally, he has a tuneful ear for conversations, an ability to arrange words and pace them to fit implications or unsaid things. It is spare and pared down stuff, which, redeemed with irony and allusiveness, never risks the vaporous, mock profundity of simple vagueness. 7 Sentences wither with puckishness and drollery, especially in his travel writing. Very early on in A Turn in the South, coming upon an

See Na ipaul on a l lusiveness of the English la ng uage, i n Na ipaul, “ T he Air-Conditioned Bubble: The Republicans in Dallas,” in The Writer and the World: Essays (New York: Knopf, 2002 [1984]): 449. He writes, English, like other living literary languages, is constantly enriching itself by internal references. It is hard to use it without being allu sive, without knowingly or unknowingly making some reference to a phrase from Shakespeare or the King James Bible or any number of p o et s or c ome d i a n s or fi l m - m a ker s or h i stor i a n s or st ate sme n . 7

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Indian hotel manager and his wife in Peters, North Carolina, Naipaul describes their accents as, “Texan,” and “A merican” respectively. A momentary slip in the Indian woman’s accent inspires this observation: Her speech was American -- to me. It let her down only once when she said, in her brisk, undeferen tia l way, that coffee a nd th i ngs like that were available on the “pre -mises,” making the word rhyme with “vices.” That was Indian, that had a flavor of India. (6) P robably he mea ns little by th is obser vation, but one has to wonder: why “vices?” and, does Naipaul me a n mer ely t h at t he pr o nu nci at io n wa s I nd i a n , or is there some hidden commentary here - - given his other work especially - - about identity, passing, or better, mimicry? 8 Working through his fiction and travel writing chronologically, this allusive, ironic tendency gets even more pronou nc ed t he fu r t her removed one gets from his earliest writing, fiction and nonfiction; the prose gets even more spare, and in the travelogues, Naipaul intrudes much less, letting his subjects speak for themselves. Or so it would seem. Narration and prose are important; there is an effort (to borrow from the novelist Paul Theroux) by Naipaul to find ambiguity and “subtle meaning using primary colors,” and “to make Rome out of matchst icks.” 9 It ’s a pa i nst a k i ng va r i at ion on n at u ra l ism t h at c a n be precise a nd pa i nterly, an involved, careful cross-hatching of the elements in a narrative, or of this or that person’s account in a travel piece. Because of this method, even when his writing appears far less concerned with matters

He a lso m isses a ch a nc e to c onsider more de eply a n emergent New, New South, beyond the rather prosaic bi-racial conclusions he comes to, which is surprising given the extended treatment he gives such things when writing about his native Trinidad, as in The Middle Passage, written over twenty-five years before Turn. 8

Paul Theroux, Sir Vidia’s Shadow: a Friendship Across Five Continents (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998): 281, 39. 9

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for m a l ly “ p ol it ic a l ,” Na ip au l i mbr ic ate s p ol it ic s i n the str ucture of h is na r ratives, by the choices he makes when arranging his portraits. In Turn in the South, this means that the whole is infused with racial politics; the prose implicates the structure of the narrative, and vice versa. For reasons like this, I find Naipaul convincing when he writes, in his earlier accounting of the African Ivory Coast, “The Crocodiles of Yamassoukro,” that: “I travel to discover other states of mind...I go to places, which, however alien, connect in some way with what I already know...I also live, as it were, in a novel of my own making.” 10 In A Turn in the South he claims to be less hemmed-in: Travel of the sort I was doing depends on acci dents: the books read on a jour ney, the people met. To travel i n the way I was doi ng was like painting in acrylic or fresco; things set quickly. The whole shape of a section of narrative can be determi ned by some cha nce meeti ng, some phrase heard or devised. If I had met someone else my thoughts might have worked differently; t hough I m ight at t he end h ave a r r ived at t he same general feeling about the place I was in (164). I’m not certain how much Naipaul worked over or rearranged the contents of his drafts for A Turn in the South, but I suspect he demurs some here. For example, there is some sleight of hand in the way t h at he w r ites about h is i n it i a l t r ip to t he S out h with Howa rd, a n assista nt to a New York desig ner and lettering artist who the novelist knows. F irst, Na ip au l shows s ome b efudd leme nt w it h t he way

10

“The Crocodiles of Yamassoukro” in The Writer, 239.

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t h at Howa rd sp e a k s . He ad m its , “ I h ad ...t r ouble with Howa rd’s words someti mes; I was too ready to find in them meanings he didn’t intend” (3). Yet, we learn things about Howard only piecemeal and in characteristically stark prose, which adds up to a confusion of potential meanings: “He lived alone, and he preferred not to live in Harlem. He was a serious reader of newspapers and magazines, and he had a special interest in foreign affairs. He liked to cook; a nd he kept h i mself fit by playi ng padd le ba l l on weekends” (4). Howa rd’s rac e is u ncle a r u nt i l Na ipau l notes t he differences in the color of his sister’s and mother’s skin several pages in. There are clues of course, but the description takes on political implications only when Naipaul shows his hand for the reader. Before he does, we learn that Bowen, North Carolina, Howard’s hometown, is clearly divided by race, having a central tow n center, a nd “a rich wh ite suburb attached to that town, and then outside that a black area” (5). “The differences,” writes Naipaul, “were noticeable.” He qualifies these prosaic geographical facts with: “But Howard, near his home now, appeared to claim both the white area and the black area” (5). Where does Howard live? -- in the black area or the rich white suburb? What does this claiming mean? It isn’t yet clear. We m ight c onsider more closely Na ipau l’s i n it i a l description of Howard, that “he preferred not to live i n Ha rlem;” it’s a deceptively complex statement. Without the knowledge of Howard’s race, this could very well be a droll comment on a white Southerner who harbors racial prejudice. Once we become aware of Howa rd as a n A fric a n A meric a n, th is takes on

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broader implications. Howard is something of a loner, adrift in New York because of his Southern identity; from a sma ll tow n, ref lex ively un- ena mored with Harlem, which has the wrong “rhythm,” as Howard puts it, a racial enclave with a politics marked by “rage,” as Naipaul describes it (17). And, for the reader in the United States, Howard’s interests certainly defy invidious racial stereotypes and any expectations one might get from them--he plays paddle ball; he likes to cook, but what he cooks one can only guess; he has an avid interest in foreign affairs, against the presumed provinciality of American or Harlem racial politics.

TRUCES WITH IRRATIONALITY

A

s an opening gambit, this unadorned, suggestive prose, imbricated into the narrative conceit of a bit-by-bit racial unveiling, manages to suspend a regular, linear reading of Turn. There is no shattering revelation here, but a subtle understatement, so that when I read it for the first time I found myself poring over the passages over and over again, picking through them for clues. One reaches at least three conclusions about it. Perhaps Naipaul’s outsider status keeps him blessedly immune from the familiar American racial stereotypes, or maybe an American reader of one sort or another expects something different because of more firmly implanted prejudices or expectations, or -- and this is the most plausible option -- this all shows some measure of purposefulness. As the text moves on, racial considerations, which dominate the first half of the book, give way to a near blissful appreciation for white Southerners: rednecks, evangelicals, and country music songwriters; it all

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ends with a gorgeous elegy for North Carolina tobacco culture. By the final words, the dynamic intersection of faith, the past, and modernity encompasses race and politics, so that A Turn in the South suggests a post-civil rights era political aesthetic struggling to take shape against the pull of regional essentialisms. Turn takes the form it does because Naipaul tries out his sense of Caribbean and African black politics on the South with uneven results, eventually abandoning t h e id e a . A t te mpt i n g to ex pl a i n S o ut h e r n r o o t s in the post-civil rights era, he resorts to the routes of his travels. Failing that, he moves on to faith and landscapes of memory, which are the most lyrical and yet least conceptually successful parts of the book. The moment at which Howard’s race becomes evident f lirts with this central tension. Howard’s sister is “darker” than his “brown” mother. If we read Naipaul here juxtaposed with his other work, it invites the complex colorism of the Caribbean, “Negro, creole, mu l at to, bl ack , etc.” R aci a l ident it y t hus routed , Bowen, North Carolina emerges as something of a microcosm of a larger, polyglot South in the postciv i l r ights era . Na ipau l re a l i zes t h at he sees a n old segregated community in Bowen, and that this c om mu n it y is bre a k i ng dow n as new i m m ig ra nts (Latinos especially) come in to take low-paying jobs, suppla nti ng the A fric a n A meric a n work i ng class. The changes that followed the civil rights movement me a n t h at i ncre asi ngly more A fr ic a n A mer ic a ns venture into white-black social situations. They drink together, hang out together. Howard predicts, rather matter-of-factly, that the black community in Bowen will be gone in twenty-five years. Of course, this is a familiar story, and one of the signal ironies of the post-

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civil rights era. African American communities and their institutions, the wellsprings of the movement, which were created and sustained under segregation, now find themselves threatened with extinction. Not unlike white Southerners, black Southerners attempt to preserve their past amidst change, and the church -- faith -- lies at the center of an uneasy truce with the modern South. A nd yet, Na ipau l is pr ick ly - - wa r y of wh at do es survive in black communities, especially in African A mer ic a n pol it ic a l a nd cu lt u ra l pract ic es. W hen it c o me s to c u lt u r e , h e c le a rly s id e s w it h wh at might be called, following Daryl Scott’s work on the subject, t he “d a m a ge i m a ger y ” scho ol . 11 I n ot her word s , Naipaul very often emphasizes the pathologies or irrationalities of black people and black culture, pr e s u m a bly a s a w ay of ex pr e s s i n g t h e d a m a ge inflicted by years of racial oppression. Little in Turn i n t he S out h sugge sts to o much ch a nge fr om h i s earlier views, arrived at from his travels in Africa and the Caribbean, although he finds it necessary to adjust a bit to the vagaries of a society presumably more fully made. Of course, damage imagery always implies an undamaged or whole other, so that words like pathology or sickness suppose some healthy other (for example the white bourgeoisie). Naipaul’s favorite terms are “irrationality” which implies rationality, and “unreality” which sets up against some sort of “reality.” The two chapters where Naipaul deals most directly with African Americans, on Tallahassee and Tuskegee, respectively, he names “The Truce with Irrationality,” pa r ts one a nd two. Ack nowledgi ng the differences i n bl ack p ol it ic s i n t he C a r ibb e a n - - where bl ack

Daryl Scott, Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880-1996 (Chapel Hill: North Carolina, 1997). 11

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p e ople held m ajor it ie s , a nd i n t he Un ite d S t ate s -- where African Americans were a distinct minority -Naipaul reasons that despite having more possibilities as Americans, for African Americans, “there could be no movement forward for the mass; they had lived through too much; the irrationality of slavery and the yea rs after slaver y had made ma ny i r rationa l and self-destructive. It was in the news every day: drugs, crime, street life, ‘negative peer pressure’ at school” (119). The novelist appreciates -- and is often moved by - - A fric a n A meric a ns who work aga i nst these irrationalities, those who seek a “movement forward,” but he worries, It would be intellectually satisfying, and simpler to manage intellectually if this movement forward was broadly, all; if black people, their legal rights won, were now becoming masters of their own destinies. But at the other end of this movement, a nd close enough to th reaten th is movement... there was irrationality and self-destructiveness, and despair of a sort perhaps not known before (134). “Before” for Naipaul means before the civil rights movement. Integration threatens black communities, a nd he sees little present to replace the suppor ts assembled under Jim Crow. He revisits the theme of “fantasy” that he describes in his writings on the C a r ibbe a n , i n T r i n id ad - - where sl aves h a rbored millenarian African dreams at night, reversing their daytime roles, playing at having the kingdom. African Americans, it seems, can have no such dreams.12 In post-slavery Trinidad, these millenarian African fantasies translated into the lunacy of carnival, which

Naipaul, Turn, 135. See also “Power?” 135; “Michael X and the Black Power Killings in Trinidad: Peace and Power,” 167; “The Crocodiles of Yamassoukro,” 280, all in Writer and the World. In “Crocodiles,” Naipaul notices a group of African American ladies from Harlem, who find themselves out of place. “[T]hey come to convert Africans,” he notes, “but they should come to be converted by Africans” (280). Naipaul’s encounter with dancing in Martinique is also instructive here, see The Middle Passage: Impressions of Five Societies--British, French, and Dutch--in the West Indies and South America (London: Andre Deutsch, 1962): 209. 12

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i n t u r n pr op a gate d a r ac e - c o n su me d p ol it ic s - a s farce of the black majority, plagued by demagoguery, opportunism, and the charismatic, self-fashioning leader. The black Southerners Naipaul talks to cannot reach back into their past much further than the turn of the twentieth century, so that at the “other end of the movement forward,” for Naipaul, lies “vacancy” (13 5 ). T he upshot is t h at where he sees potent i a l v iole nc e a nd m ad ne ss i n t he fa nt a sie s of A fr ic a and the Caribbean, in the United States South he sees “vacancy:” mostly decay and despair. I think there are at least two ways to read Naipaul here. First, he obviously has long felt general discomfort or even disdain for the “irrationalities” of race-based politics, which maps rather interestingly on to his litera r y conceits, h is taste for the unador ned a nd simple. Second, Naipaul’s sense of black leadership in the U.S. South struggles against his sense of African a nd C a r i bb e a n p ol it ic a l le a d e r s h i p, d e s pite h i s observation that black Southerners have no mystical African resources from which to draw. I’ll start this line of thinking with a quote from Naipaul written twenty-five years before A T ur n in the South, this time describing writers in his native Trinidad: T he i nvolveme nt of t he Neg r o w it h t he wh ite world is one of t he l i m it at ions of West I nd i a n w r it i ng, a s it i s t he de st r uc t io n of A mer ic a n Negro writing. The American Negro’s subject is h is black ness. Th is c a n not be the basis of a ny serious literature, and it has happened again and aga i n that once the A meric a n Negro has made h i s s t ate me nt , h i s pr of it a ble pr o te s t , h e h a s nothing to say (69).

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One c a n only i magi ne who Na ipaul mea nt here i n 1962: Richard Wright? Ralph Ellison? This passage makes Naipaul’s admiration for the novelist Albert Murray, who he meets in Harlem in preparation for his travels in the South, all the more baffling. Maybe he had changed his mind by 1987. At least, I think this passage opens up his pat dismissal, in Turn, of W.E.B. DuBois’ writing in Souls of Black Folk, as “lyrical for the sake of the lyricism” (152). He prefers Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery and the 1895 Cotton Exposition Speech, and he writes touchingly of both. It could be that Naipaul senses a certain rootlessness i n Wash i ng ton’s stra ightforwa rd appea ls to black and white America, in a way not dissimilar to Ralph Ellison’s rapturous retelling of the Founder’s story by the blind Reverend Homer A. Barbee in Invisible Man:

I’m sure you’ve heard of his precarious infancy, the precious life almost destroyed by an insane cousi n who splashed the babe w ith lie a nd shriveled his seed...those indescribably glorious d ays i n wh ich the Fou nder was bui ld i ng h is dream not only here in this then barren valley, but h ither a nd yonder th roughout the la nd, instilling the dream in the hearts of the people. Erecting the scaffolding of a nation. Broadcasti n g h i s me s s a ge t h at fel l l i ke s e e d o n fa l low ground, sacrificing himself, fighting and forgiving his enemies of both complexions (119,124).

Biologic a lly ba r ren, Ellison’s Founder broadc asts h i s s e e d o n fa l low g r ou nd . It ’s a de n i a l of blo o d knowledge, a fabrication spurred by natal alienation, bor n of m idd le passage, wh ich , Ji m C row ended , le aves beh i nd t he “ vac a ncy ” t h at Na ipau l senses

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among some African A mericans. Washington, who wrote simply and directly, spinning out profundity from quot id i a n t h re ads i n work i ng l ives, cre ated an oasis of rationality in Tuskegee, where outside irrationality reigned. (Naipaul mentions Louis Harlan’s biography approvingly, but omits the less appealing dimensions of Washington’s political wizardry.) Washington died early, and his “achievement, Naipaul admits, “was great” if tragic (154). DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk, on the other hand dealt with “tears and rage,” offering “no program” (152). Worse, DuBois, living on past mid-century, had been seduced by Africa in the end: “facing irrationality with irrationality -he left the United States and went to live...in Ghana, a former British colony that had i n i ndependence very quickly become an African despotism” (152). It follows that Naipaul dislikes the literary “conceit” of the veil to describe segregation. Maybe he has little feeling for DuBois’ searching evocation of a rooted African American past, which was more poetics than techne; it is both biblical: Moses, in Exodus, covering his face after speaking to God; and redolent with folk idiom: a fleshy caul over the eyes at birth, an indication of mystical, extrasensory sight.

BLACK LEADERSHIP

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o wh i le Na ipau l ad m i res t he ac c ompl ish ments of African American communities over racism and segregation, he is less than sensitive to some of the complexities of black culture, and he despairs for the future of African American institutions. He’s touched o n a s et of overl appi ng rel at io n s t h at h ave lo ng dominated racial politics in the U.S. In racial thinking,

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this translates as human universalism versus racial or cultural particularism; for the black image and African American culture: damage from racism past versus triumph over racism past; for the civil rights movement and its memory: epochal changes toward e qu a l it y ver su s p er si ste nt i ne qu a l it y u nder new guises. Wrapped up in these relations are a set of nearly impossible to disentangle approaches and strategies: race pride and the comforts of community, self-help a nd t he possibi l it y of i nd iv idu a l ism, sepa rat ism, i nte g r at i o n i s m , d e s e g r e g at i o n , a c c o m m o d at i o n , brokering, militancy, rage, and so on. I n h is trip to Atla nta, where he plunges i nto th is thicket of racial politics, Naipaul oscillates between an appreciation for black communities, racial reconciliation and uplift and a sense of disappointment with the style of certain black politicians, particularly Marvin Arrington, the then president of the Atlanta city council. Along the way, the novelist becomes consumed with a news story then circulating from Forsy th County, G eorgia, a wh ite enclave outside of Atlanta with a long history of racial violence and exclusion, where the Klan had disrupted a march for racial brotherhood in efforts to keep African Americans out. He puzzles over first what he sees as the formal, ritualized character of civil rights marches and demonstrations, and second, the nature of black leadership, which he intermittently compares with Caribbean black politics. Arrington and the longtime Atlanta civil rights activist Hosea Williams figure centrally. Especially telling is Naipaul’s arrangement of his narrative in this part of h is stor y, a nd t he i nter pl ay it i nv ites bet ween

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the two characters. Our first introduction to Hosea Williams is not particularly good. Naipaul describes the activist’s publicity material, reasoning: I felt that Hosea might now have become licensed, a sta r, a ma n i n the news, someone ex isti ng i n a special kind of electronic reality or unreality. And his political life required him to beat his own drum. In The Dimensions of the Man -- Dr. Hosea L . W i l li a m s - - A C h ro n o l og y...t here wa s t h i s: “Today he’s not content to watch things happen. HE MAKES THINGS HAPPEN” (28). T her e a re sh ade s here of t he c a r n iva l lu n ac y of the self-fashioning black Caribbean leader. Naipaul wonders whether the highly ritualized character of the Forsyth March accomplished anything at all, whether t he old , pa rad ig mat ic civ i l r ights demonst rat ion had also run out of gas, no longer inspiring, having been made “safe” by people like Hosea Wi llia ms. The old segregated communities now in decay and ruin, the means used to defeat Jim Crow segregation- t he i r o n ic u ndoi ng of t he old bl ack i n st it ut io n s - - had become staged, “safe” performances, led by “licensed” activists who “beat their own drum.” He laments “overexposure”: The great Forsyth march...was like a ritual con flict, played out before the cameras, and according to certain rules. Out of this formalizing, the issue had died. Over ex posure was a ver y A meric a n aspect of this formalizing, I also felt. Everyone h ad been i nter v iewed a nd i nter v iewed ; ever y one...h ad bec ome a person a l it y, ever yone h ad now exhausted attention (53).

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I t ’s a t a n t a l i z i n g i d e a : t h e e x p e r i e n c e o f t h e paradigmatic, formal civil rights protest cannot reenchant the experience of racial politics; it is not ready-to-hand in a roughly Heideggerian sense, but exists as a kind of “electronic...unreality.” This is probably one of the most promising avenues in the entire book (one has to ask: why is this so? What h istoric a l phenomena made it so?). Unfor tu nately, Naipaul leaves this particularly fertile field largely unruminated, moving on to an awkward interview with Marvin Arrington. He finds that he cannot tear the Atlanta politician away from the script of his publicity p a p e r s . A r r i n g t o n i s a c o n s u m m a t e p e r fo r m e r or showman, and Naipaul initially considers him as someone who “might have been created by Caribbean circumstances” (58). Yet the limited sphere of Atlanta p ol it ic s re si g n s A r r i ng to n to a n “ u n a ssu a ge able k i nd of rage,” ra i li ng aga i nst racism, sur rounded and made largely powerless by rich and influential whites, whereas in the Caribbean of a Bradshaw of St. Kitts, for example, he might have “overthrown an old system and set up in its place something he had fashioned himself” (58). This encounter with Arrington nicely sets up Naipaul’s final assessment of Hosea Williams. Williams offers him an energetic, dramatic retelling of the circumstances i n Forsy t h , a nd t he i nt i macy of t he c onversat ion c auses the novelist to reth i nk h is ea rlier take. “ I had seen him more as a performer, acting up to the public character he had created for himself” but, he allows, “I didn’t think so now” (63). He is impressed with the photos on Hosea Williams’ office wall: [T] he most moving photographs were those that stressed

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si mpler th i ngs: the overa lls of the ma rchers, a nd the mule carts - - the twin symbols of the movement, affecting, inevitable, and right, like the Gandhi cap and homespun of India (59). Atlanta City Council politics require that Williams be a show ma n. L i ke Ga nd h i , who was “c a refu l about th i ngs like newspaper presses” the A fric a n American activist “radiated...lucidity and goodness” (63). To get some measure of independence from the downtown political establishment, Williams runs his own business from out of his headquarters, making chem ic a ls for ja n itor i a l cle a n i ng. L e a r n i ng t h is, Naipaul is completely hooked. He again imagines Gandhi and revisits an appreciation for the architect John Ruskin that had emerged earlier, in his impressions of Tuskegee and Booker T. Washington. The sy nerg y of elements for readi ng Na ipaul a nd civil rights are nearly too much to handle here. There is certainly the glint of Indian nationalism, but one gets a sense of the Naipaulian moral universe in the carefully contrived interplay between Hosea Williams and Marvin Arrington: the careful attention to the architecture of narrative built up from unadorned, simple prose, expressing admiration for the direct and lucid ethical appeal of working people as an inherent critique of the alluring rage and unreality of racial politics, and so on. It recalls, again, the routes of Naipaul’s travels, this time in his impressions of St. Kitts and the importation of American Black Power there, “Papa and the Power Set,” written in 1969. In that essay, he compares “Papa” Robert Bradshaw, the demagogic folk leader, who he describes as “black,” to Dr. William Herbert, English-educated, “a leader

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of literate protest,” who he describes as “mulatto.” Making a tour of the island with Bradshaw’s Black P ower poi nt ma n , L ee Mo ore, a t i re blows on t he c a r. Moore refuses to use the ti re jack, a nd i n a n absurdly comic moment, some local folk, recognizing the politician, stop to help. They lift the whole car to change the tire. Moore tells Naipaul: “It’s how I always change a wheel. Did you hear what the boys...shouted? ‘ It ’s L e e M o o r e ’s c a r.” He c o nt i nu e s , “ I f it w a s Herbert, he would still be there, I can tell you.” To which, Naipaul muses, this time away from the action a nd i n the privacy h is readers, “ Herber t, though, might have used the jack.” 13 To finish up with a question, what can we take from Naipaul’s routed sense of the roots of Southern society, or better, h is idiosy ncratic postcolonia l notion of post- civil rights politics? F irst, perhaps there has been a tendency in the past by readers of Naipaul to hold their noses at his rather reactionary racial politics while breathing in deep the pleasantries of his words and stories. It may be worth thinking about whether or not one can so neatly disentangle the two. Second, Naipaul’s apparent rootlessness underscores the racially loaded character of terms like reality and unreality, rationality and irrationality, damage and health, apart from their warmer burrows in this or that native soil. And finally, we might pause and think about a not her hu ma n product of t he postc olon i a l experience, who, at the very same time that Naipaul was making his way through the South, was searching for roots amidst the complexities of black politics on the South side of Chicago. I’m thinking, of course, of Barack Obama, whose meteoric rise to prominence in 2008 occasioned much talk of a post-civil rights, post-

13

“Papa and the Power Set,” 80, 82.

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racial politics. Re-reading race and civil rights in A Turn in the South might make us properly suspicious of such ideas.

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CALEB GREGORY

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SAW MY THER APIST AT THE LIQUOR STORE “ TA K E C A R E ,” H E S A ID

THERON SPIEGL

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SELECTED POEMS

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THE POOREST BRAHMIN “He’s the poorest Brahmin you’ve ever seen.” The Fig tree in the wind a million leaves shimmer “He’s the poorest Brahmin you’ve ever seen.” a multifaceted synergy: office parks on fire “He’s the poorest Brahmin you’ve ever seen.” the thunderstorm track in the produce aisle with the hourly misting strobe lighting, too “He’s the poorest Brahmin you’ve ever seen.” the lunch, broken This is my Body the cooler, broken This is my Blood “He’s the poorest Brahmin you’ve ever seen.”

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74

PROFUGUS O Parthenon upon this base an aggregate place of fancy fiberglass Athena The doors of 615 Church too bear the Mark of the Possum and Leach the weary road from our stories the weary road is no longer in our stories as it has been leached from our stories the weary road is made of the space behind the statue of Demonbreun strewn with trash and alabaster skins turned sooty and grody A Man rolls down the hill in Richland Park as his children walk to school and Mount Vernon’s dreams of familial peace threw out the baby and the claw-tub bath and footsteps away a place where likeable racists gathered (profugus) this city is full of dominators of mind in kind, in like, in love

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I wonder why the sky’s above my gentle dome my turnip head my sleepy wonder my steak and bread L and C light red and green as the world’s largest adult bookstore changed management my dog, my dougie why have you gone my dog, my dougie our work’s not done to liberate the feet of teens to scream and dream and preen our wings to mousse the shabby head of man and lead to water a fluffy lamb my dog my dougie you’ll always be my numero uno, my willow tree and in the shrine of Dude Let Up you’ll always be my TN hero my Jubilee

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BRANCH MANAGER the acorns split under foot, under black patent leather shoes his top half draped immaculately (white dinner jacket) did I mention the drape was immaculately conceived in the din of some smudged matte turquoise tailor’s nook/backroom he gazed into the natural weave of the moonlit branch manager he fancied it was some haint from the bottom of a well that was lost in the Word only to be pusht into the maw of the Earth. The sun was off somewhere illuminating a Coptic courtyard where a soccer ball undid itself and flowered its pentagonal cells onto the ground.

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77

he came closer to the branch manager and saw that there were several tears scrawled on her cheek in Indian ink and in the tears, little people like early renderings of sperm a supermoon was happening right above the branch manager and him the dark brown hand brushed his shawl collar and he stood silent with his mind on his fiance “you look nice; you ready?” “ready as I’ll ever be” he had many helpings of leftover steak touched by the lips of the patrons he served his cab license fell behind his study door and has gathered dust for thirty years never again will he shut himself into that study where he snapped and stayed out of trouble forever, mom into his books, mom on to the great debate, mom

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“I only do this on weekends (coordinate).” the doors were flung open and someone in the back of the place hung her head and cried

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KINTARO IN LIKE ( ‫) ְש אֹול‬ BRENTWOOD (FARMVILLE) RECEDING TREELINE DONUTS IN THE PARKING LOT I WANT TO PARTY LIKE A CAVEMAN MY DOG RAN AWAY MY LEG BROKE N2 NEVER BEEN TO TRINITY LANE AND DICKERSON PIKE NEVER TRIED OUT BUENA VISTA HEIGHTS NEVER HAD A LAVERGNE SWEETHEART SHUT DOWN IN CRIEVE HALL DODGED A BULLET IN BELLE MEADE KRAV MAGA AND A GLOCK 19 COUNT DANTE POSTER ON THE BATHROOM WALL YOU CAN DIM MAK MY HEART YOU HAVE THE POWER

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PRESBYTERIAN WIND eyes closed against the Presbyterian wind in Oak Hill standing in the way of a horse I witness a swing set self-flagellation a swift kick to the moldy basketball and the trees explode in temporal flair oranges and reds and browns that Kia Sportage (over there)  is an opiate buoy in a sea of coloration the white bovine tongues wagging against the fence brain fruit on the ground I hold your hoodied hand  Umbros swish against my growing a cedar fire is nice for this boy now on to your Memphis Group sofa in the sunroom

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81

your hook-up line gaze is deeper than Welch’s Concord Grape motion to me in some way I can understand I wear one backpack strap for you I pretend I have no parents for you That is not my mother summoning me in a silver Previa I am feral I am the Mad Max of these undeveloped woods I am handy with a hard edge ruler, with a mechanical pencil syringe, and with excuses

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SHENANDOAH COURT I meandered between shelves toward the tremendous tomes of art history “only third graders walk like that” I’M interested in art books for the nudes I watched my librarian smooth her librarian blouse and stare into the Peach Orchard Hill the aleatoric music swam in the car stereo downstairs >> during the fourth of July party at a ranch house in College Grove motown played for the frat party vibe and I partook in a hayride I saw a cow shit in the field and one hour later I surfaced from the pool with eyes burning and wide and motown still playing into my ears >> we snuck to the “Irish house” across the drainage ditch where we did play

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Shenandoah Court was a turbulence the legend of our baby sitter’s black panties was an urgent prospect so we snuck to the house that deserved a smoking pipe and a tartan clad person upon its porch >> so now I sit and wait and hear a baby heart purposed and clear beating time like techno sheets the folds of mitochondria weep the fervent energy of climes of tropic bird and pitted rimes God is good and I am bad I never thought I’d be a dad I never thought I’d go through things: wedding bells, diamond rings underneath the urbane gloom my childish heart is knitting bloom upon a rafter perched a haint my evergoal is toward saint I murked a ramp I tore the punch and after all there’s no free lunch

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about the faces of positive people my mother’s Memphis under tall steeples Kentucky Bend ribbed by river I think I’ll eat a chicken dinner I think I’ll meet a morbid sinner I think I’ll eek a truncate simper I think I’ll eek a truncate simper

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SATI, SALOS

85

widened eyes the entire party stopped we shuffled out into the Indian summer streets of Mountain Brook Lexus leather strongly odoriferous, the waft toward my nostrils is slow and solar “That wasn’t me back there.” I’m supposed to nod. we watched the smoke rise from our phones in Pythagorean horror our eyes danced from point to point in the never-grasped present the wild bones of saints press against the garments wrent if Christ is God this world is split

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CALEB GREGORY

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WINTER WALKS — TRYING NOT TO NOTICE THE BARE TREES

THERON SPIEGL

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JACOB K LEIN’S A POR IA OF NUMBERS

KEITH JOHNSON

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“Then, you noble man, [mathematical knowing] would draw the soul toward truth and be productive of philosophic understanding in directing upward in what we now improperly direct downward.� P L ATO’S R E PU BL IC 527 B

A

s i nhabita nts of the moder n world, we possess a peculiar common sense. All around u s a re ba ff l i ng ly c omplex st r uc t u re s a nd infrastructures (of both industry and thought) that have matured i nto thei r cur rent forms th rough a history that can only be comprehended by specialists. Even then, it is only understood in parts. And yet, despite its complexity, few among us have any substantial t r o u ble o p e r at i n g i n it . I f a ny t h i n g , a n at te mpt to understand these structures only slows us down in our use of them 1 . In this way, forgetting that our world is not intelligible to us has become a solution that allows us to operate. This is not to say that we are thoughtless, but only that many of our thoughts are directed more toward merely operating and than to understanding or recollecting. And as a result of this state of things, it becomes easy to forget that t here even is such a d ist i nct ion. I f we t hen seek to understand our world, any obviousness presents the danger of only making things seem clear through concealing. We must therefore learn how to wonder at the very ideas that make up our common sense. W here, t hen , shou ld we st a r t? I f we c a n fi nd t he source of the concept or concepts most responsible for this state of things, we will be in a much better position to understand ourselves. In several writings on mathematics and number (the most comprehensive of which is called Greek Mathematical Thought and

1

Imagine needing to really understand a computer before using it.

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the O r igin of Algebra), Jacob K lei n identifies just such a source in the transition of the role of science, o p e r a t i n g t h r o u g h m a t h e m a t i c s , fo r t h i n k i n g : “Modern thought issues not from the understanding of man through speech but from the idea of a universal science, the mathesis universalis.” 2 This universal science, brought about by severa l six teentha nd sevente ent h - c ent u r y t h i n kers , d i ffered from ancient and medieval science in its purpose. Where the ancient a nd med ieva l scienc es sought to st ate the truth, the new science understood itself as an art for finding all possible truth. The establishment of such an art required mathematics to be (or become) universally applicable to the world. In order to see how this came about, we must find the point of transition for the concept of number where such a m athesi s universalis became possible. But in order to actually evaluate this transition, we must try to answer the more fundamental question, “What is number?” If the goal, then, is to clarify and evaluate our own way of thinking about number, there needs to be some point of reference beyond or prior to that way. So we should begin with the observation that number as an idea depends on the act of counting. Numbers could not have been present to thinking individuals until they were concerned with asking the question of “how many?” about some group of objects. From this, we can also see that counting must presuppose a unit to make its activity possible. To say that a group of objects is “this many” is to recognize or assume that each object counted is a “one”. Number, then, arises as the answer to the question of “how many” when a collection of units of any kind are counted. Whether the units are trees, rocks, bears, animals, or even

Klein, Jacob. “Modern Rationalism.” In Lectures and Essays, edited by Robert B. Williamson and Elliot Zuckerman (Annapolis: St. John’s College Press, 1985), 58. 2

K lein, Jacob. Greek Mathematical T hought and the Or igin of Algebra. Translated by Eva Brann (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1992), .46. For the remainder of the paper, I will refer to this book as Origin of Algebra. 3

4

Ibid., 49.

5

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pure units simply thought, number holds the same character as “a definite number of definite things”. 3 T h is was t he Greek u nderst a nd i ng of nu mber, or arithmos. Maintaining that this is true about number leads to some interesting consequences. “One”, although a basis of counting, is not a number. A particular object is “one” on account of its wholeness or unity, and therefore requires no counting to be recognized as “one”. Since “in the process of counting... it is only the multiplicity of counted things which is the object of attention,”4 two is the first possible number. Likewise, zero cannot be a number because it cannot name a definite number of definite things. That this is the case becomes clear when we keep in mind the “twofold determinateness” of number: First, it consists of objects or units “determined in such and such a way,” and “secondly, it is an indication that there are just so and so many of these objects.” 5 Neither zero nor one can meet the requirement of being a “so and so many”, and zero cannot even meet the requirement of being “determined in such and such a way”. With these considerations, we have reached a point of reference for thinking about number that is both different from our conception of number and prior to it, being at the beginning of number’s emergence in thought. From here, we can examine what was involved in the ruptured history of number that led it from here to our current conception. And in the transition of what is meant by number, we can experience the differences as real alternatives. 6 T he act of c ou nt i ng t a kes us t h rough a n ordered sequence of numbers, with the potential to continue to

Moving forward, we should keep track of the tensions between discovering, using, and understanding number. In counting, we have already seen the simultaneous discovery and use of number. But the question of what number is cannot be said to be answered. As the attempt to understand number is played out, these tensions will resurface. While we cannot give adequate attention to these tension in the current writing, we should remember that these three relations of mind to number are not always the same nor always in line with each other. 6

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as many numbers as there are objects to be counted. In this way, counting has already begun to familiarize u s w it h c er t a i n rel at io n sh ips a mo ng a nd w it h i n numbers. For example, if having counted seven people in a room, and also counting that of those seven four are female and three are male, we will have learned that an assemblage of seven units can be broken up into four units and three units. If we reflect on the number seven further, we may notice that no matter how you spl it t he u n its t h at c omp o s e it i nto t wo groups, one will be odd while the other is even. This is significant because it is not true of every number. There are numbers that can be composed of two even multitudes and others that can be composed of two odd multitudes. These differences among numbers make some like and some unlike each other. It was out of an elaboration of these “kinds” that the science of “Arithmetic” 7 began. But th is emergence of “ k i nds” a mong numbers actually represents a crucial moment for thinking and raises important questions about the being of numbers, about what numbers really are. Above all, it brings into focus one of the fundamental questions regarding the Greek concept of number: “In what sense is the number of those things or ‘units’ in itself a u n it y? Is t he nu mber ex pressed by on e word a unity at all?” 8 For the Pythagoreans, this discovery of “kinds” among numbers was evidence that each number was a unity. In the same way that a multitude of units make up a number, a particular collection of related numbers make up a “kind”. Viewed another way, the characteristics that belong to numbers of various kinds cannot come from the units that make up those numbers, since units must be homogenous

Arithmetic was an elaboration of these kinds and not, as it is today, a study of calculations and operations. Arithmetic was contrasted with the science of “logistic”, which, as the science of combinations of the numbers studied in arithmetic, was seen as the basis for calculating. 7

Klein, Jacob. “The Concept of Number in Greek Mathematics and Philosophy.” In Lectures and Essays, edited by Robert B. Williamson and Elliot Zuckerman (Annapolis: St. John’s College Press, 1985),.45. 8

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“ones”. With units being self-same in this sense, the difference between kinds of numbers must come from outside those units. A nd if a number is something other or more than the units that make it up, it can justifiably be taken to be a unity. For the Pythagoreans, these unities and relationships represented order not only i n (what we now th i nk of as) mathematical objects, but in the natural world itself. “They saw the true grounds of the things in this world in their countableness, inasmuch as the condition of being a ‘world’ is primarily determined by the presence of a ‘[well-] ordered arrangement’... while any order, in turn, rests on the fact that the things ordered are delimited with respect to one another and so become countable.” 9 As such, the mathematics developed by the Pythagoreans was simultaneously a physics, and thus can be said to prefigure (to some extent) the mathematical physics of our own time. It isn’t difficult to imagine how miraculous it must h ave s e eme d to b eg i n to u n r avel t he c o n ne c t io n between number and nature for the P ythagoreans. It is by no means self-evident that certain aspects of the world should hold such a strong connection to number. For example, that the tone of a plucked string should change with its lengthening or shortening may be interesting. But that small, simple ratios of string lengths should constitute beautiful relations of tones - and underlie the beautiful order of a musical scale - ought to be a source of wonder even today. On the continuum of greater or lesser string lengths, certain positions a re privi leged, a nd these positions have the same relations to each other as small arithmoi.10 For the P ythagoreans, this couldn’t be an accident.

9

Origin of Algebra, 64.

For example: two to one (the octave), three to two (the perfect fifth), four to three (the perfect fourth), and nine to eight (a “whole tone”). 10

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Finding that “numbers make the world sing” 11 allowed the Pythagoreans to seek number as the source of all order in Nature. Number was what caused the world to be what it was: countable, measurable, and wellordered. But this view of the world was destined for a crisis. Luckily, for our purposes, it is a crisis that th rows us back i nto the question of what number actually is (or is not, and, more specifically in this case, what it cannot be). Let us look more closely the example of the relation of string length to musical tone. When we discuss the ratio of one string length to another, we must be clear about how we can even utter a particular relationship (that is, if we wish to be more articulate than stating that one is greater or lesser in length than another). It so happens that a string twice as long as another will have a pitch an octave “lower” than its counterpart. Because this is the case, we can say that the ratio of the strings is the same as that of the arithmos “two” to a unit. But if one of the strings in the octave relationship were slightly longer or slightly shorter, how would we utter the ratio? In an actual octave, the shorter string “measures” the longer twice, and in doing so serves the same function as the unit in counting (and so is a “unit of measurement”). Whenever a unit of measurement can be established in an attempt to relate two lengths (or a ny sor t of mag n it ude 1 2 ), t he rel at ionsh ip c a n be described in terms of numbers. These relationships do not have to be as simple as the ratio of the octave. A string measured by a unit one hundred and twenty-five times related to a string measured by that same unit two hundred and fifty-one times still holds

Flaumenhaft, Harvey. “Why We Won’t Let You Speak of the Square Root of Two.” St. John’s Review 48, no. 1: 24. 11

A magnitude answers the question of “how much” as opposed to “how many”. Magnitude still admits of a thing being greater or lesser than another thing, but in a continuous manner. Weight, length, and area are all examples of magnitudes. 12

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a ratio that can be described in terms of a number to a number (and the sounding of these strings would be hardly distinguishable from an octave). From this we can see that successively larger numbers can be used to relate increasingly granular ratios of lengths. This may lead us to suppose that any ratio of magnitudes can be described as a ratio of numbers provided that we are capable of employing big enough numbers. But this turns out not to be the case. We can see why if we look at a square and consider the ratio of its diagonal to its side13 . In order for the diagonal and side to have a ratio of a number to number, the ratio must either be reducible to a form where the two terms are not divisible by the same number or must already be in such a state14 . This must be so because it is impossible for any two numbers to be endlessly divisible by common numbers15 . But the diagonal and side must both be divisible by the number two.

M J K J

J

M K

M

M K

KEITH JOHNSON

J

K J

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To see why this is so, look at the square with its side of the length K, and compare it to the square built on its diagonal, which has the length M. We can see that the diagonal M splits the square of K into two right triangles. We can also clearly see that the square of M is the size of four of those same triangles. This shows us that the area of a square is half the size of the area of another square built upon its diagonal. If we build another square whose diagonal is the length of K and whose side is the length of J, we can see that the same holds true for their areas: The square built on K is twice the size of the square build on J. We can further see that J is half the length of M. Now that we have seen these relations, consider what follows: If a square has a side that can be described as a number, and the area of a square is found by multiplying the side by itself, the area of that square must either be the product of an even number taken an even number of times or an odd number taken an odd number of times. We know the side M must be even because it is twice as long as J, and any number divisible into two equal parts is even. We also know that K must be even because the square of K is twice the square of J, meaning K taken K times is divisible by two. K therefore cannot be odd, since an odd number taken an odd number of times is always odd (and therefore never divisible by two). Since K and M are both even, they are both divisible by two. This being the case, the diagonal and the side must either be endlessly divisible by the number two or their ratio is not one of a number to a number. In our attempt to find a ratio of a number to a number that applies to the ratio of the side of a square to its

The following is a condensed version of the demonstration found in Flaumenhaft, Harvey. “Why We Won’t Let You Speak of the Square Root of Two.” St. John’s Review 48, no. 1. 13

By this we mean reducing “four to two” to “two to one”, “twenty-one to fourteen” to “three to two”, etc. 14

15

Keep in mind that “one” is not a number.

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diagonal, we arrive at two contradictory requirements: the requirement of the ratio to be reducible to lowest terms and the requirement of the side and diagonal to both be divisible by two. If in our thinking, we attempted to enforce the first requirement, we would deprive the square of its shape. If we attempted to enforce the second, number would lose its character as number. In either case, we reach an absurdity: a requirement that deprives a thing of what it is. We may as well be attempting to make the square circular. The ratio of a square’s diagonal and its side is not the only case where two magnitudes cannot be related as a number to a number. Whenever this impossibility occurs, the two magnitudes are said to incommensurable. The significance of incommensurability lies in the fact that it undermines a claim to know the world. So long as there are incommensurables, the beauty and order of nature cannot have its ultimate source in number: “The impossibility of there being a common measure of length for the side and diagonal of a square was, in effect, a crisis of intelligibility: it meant that there was a ratio or logos in the world that was unspeakable or alogos for the being and determinateness of things resided, for the Pythagoreans, in our ability to count them.” 16 The depth of the crisis is perhaps best illustrated in the attempt by the Pythagoreans to hide the existence of incommensurables. The failure of number to be ultimate put their very way of life at risk. Nonetheless, the incommensurables were always there to be discovered. “It is said that when the discovery of incommensurability was first revealed to outsiders, thus making public the insufficiency of number, the man who thus had undermined the Pythagorean enterprise was murdered.” 17

Kalkavage, Peter. Plato’s Timaeus. (Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing, 2001), 157. We should note that because magnitudes describe geometrical figures, incommensurability represents a division between ratios that can be grasped only by sight and those that can be grasped through speech. 16

Flaumenhaft, Harvey. “Why We Won’t Let You Speak of the Square Root of Two.” St. John’s Review 48, no. 1: 25 17

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Now we have to take a step back a nd assess what we’ve seen so far. In the act of counting, we found a n or i g i n of nu mb er i n t he l iv i ng ex p er ie nc e of a thinking human interacting with the world. This gave us the notion of arithmos 18 as a definite number of defi nite th i ngs. Counti ng led to recog nition of similarity and difference among kinds of numbers. The recognition of kinds brought into the focus the question of the being of numbers as something more or ot her t h a n t he u n its t h at ma ke t hem up 1 9 . T he P y thagorea n cosmolog y that attempted to a nswer the question was tested by the “numberability” of magnitudes. The failure of the cosmology in the face of incommensurables brings us to our current point. The objective now is to see whether the problem that led a crisis for the Pythagorean cosmology is only a Pythagorean problem. Implicitly, it seems that the modern world has succeeded where the Pythagoreans have failed. The laws of physics that regulate the universe are described in mathematical terms. Numbers, as the findings of a n a ly t ic s , repre s e nt or at le a st i nter pr et hu m a n activity and drive decision-making for social sciences, politics, and businesses. The unambiguity and universality of number keeps judgment away from mere opinion or approximation. So how did we arrive here, and how does it relate to the story of number up to this point? In other words, what is the difference between our modern notion of “number” and the notion of “arithmos”, and how did this difference come to be? A cle a r sig n t h at a ch a nge h ad been en acted c a n be fou nd i n Desc a r tes’ establish ment of m athesi s universalis, a symbolic mathematics (what we now

I only say “arithmos” instead of “number” to keep us alert to the more precise determination of number that we’ve laid out so far. 18

19

We should note that this was never adequately resolved.

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c a l l a lgebra) t h at h as as its object not h i ng shor t of the ver y substa nce of the world. 2 0 His work on A na ly tic geometr y, wh ich has made the fig ures of geometry effectively interchangeable with algebraic “expressions” of them, was a crucial step for making the world of physics 21 “mathematizable”. Other signs can be found all around the development of the “new” science (which is still, for the most part, our science) that was set in motion by a collection of sixteenthand seventeenth-century thinkers. For now, we will focus on one crucial moment in the development of the new science: the innovation of calculating with symbols or, the origin of algebra. We may begin discussing the origins of algebra by asking what would lead to the introduction of symbols into calculation. After all, in our discussion of the origins of arithmos, we found that number first arises in counting a definite number of definite things. So what would lead mathematics away from the definite toward the indefinite? Here we find two ancient Greek sources that exhibited just this tendency. The first was the process of analysis in geometry. While the discovery of the process itself has been attributed to several thinkers (including Plato), it was put down in writing in its most influential form by Pappus (c. A.D. 290 – c. 350). The process itself consists in “the assumption of what is sought as though it were granted, and by means of the consequences [proceeding to] a truth [which was in fact already] granted.” 22 In other words, a geometrical construction that is sought (and thus indefinite) is taken as complete. The construction is then worked out in reverse, so to speak, until the unfolding consequences arrive at something given as

Origin of Algebra, 197. The term algebra came to be applied to this sort of symbolic mathematics once it was identified with the existing Arabic science of al-jabr wa’l-muqabalah. It is also important to note that for Descartes the “substance” of the world was its extension. This gives us an indication that the object of mathematics for the Ancient Greeks (a definite number of definite things) was no longer the object of modern mathematics from at least the time of Descartes. 20

21

Ostensibly, the natural world around us. KEITH JOHNSON

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10 0

true. At this point the analysis is complete. The whole construction can then be undertaken (this time not in reverse but in proper order) until what was merely g ive n i n a n a lysi s (a nd wa s t herefor e i ndefi n ite) is shown to be true in a definite form. This latter process is called synthesis. Based on the conditions of the sought construction, there could be a number of “definite forms” to which the construction applies. For i nsta nce, the constr uction could apply to a ny square regardless of its dimensions or it could only apply to this one particular octagon. The conditions given in the analysis would reveal through the process wh ich is t he c ase. But “shou ld a n ‘ i mpossible’ n u m b e r r e s u l t f r o m t h e f i n a l c o m p u t a t i o n [the s y n t h e s i s] , t h e p r o bl e m i t s e l f i s t a k e n t o h a v e been badly posed, that is, impossible.” 23 Synthesis is therefore a crucial counterpart to analysis, because where analysis “merely shows the possibility of a proof or construction”, synthesis allows the facts in question to “actually [be] ‘derived’ from the ‘given’ relations between the ‘given’ magnitudes.” 24 Because of the use of the indefinite in the process, the process of analysis is sometimes called “geometrical algebra.” 25 The second Greek source is the Arithmetic of Dio phantus (c. A.D. 200 – 285). This work presents problems of calculating that not only include indeterminate numbers, but also presents the problems in an abbreviated form. For example, a single sign designates the word “arithmoi” or “monades” (units) in an equation such as “two arithmoi and three monades are equal to seven monades.” 26 These abbreviations by signs seem to tend in the direction of the symbolic form of algebra. But the crucial point to note about these abbreviations is that they do not c a r r y with them

22

Origin of Algebra, 155. Quoting Theon. Brackets not my own.

23

Origin of Algebra, 156. Brackets my own

24

Origin of Algebra, 164.

For examples of analysis in ancient Greek mathematics, see Klein, Jacob “The World of Physics and the “Natural” World.” In Lectures and Essays, edited by Robert B. Williamson and Elliot Zuckerman, (Annapolis: St. John’s College Press, 1985),.14-16, Ferrier, Richard. “Viète on the Solution of Equations and the Construction of Problems.” St. John’s Review 48, no. 1: 121-122 25

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corresponding change in concept. Even in the example equation, where the two arithmoi are indeterminate, the inclusion of a sign for monades in the equation makes it clear that the dual determinateness of arithmos as consisting of units and being so and so many of them is maintained. The two ar ithmoi that only to us are indeterminate at the start of equation turn out to consist of two monads each. The equation only reve a ls to u s rel at ionsh ips a mong deter m i n ate numbers. To the extent that the unknown itself is used in calculation, it does so only be exhibiting characteristics that are true of every particular arithmoi. In this way, Diophantus’ Arithmetic never alters the conceptual character of arithmos in venturing into the mathematical use of indeterminate numbers and signs. Both of these sources exhibit mathematical processes that incorporate something indeterminate. But they do so while staying perfectly consistent with the ancient concepts upon which they are built. Each remains in its realm of geometrical or arithmetical, the division of which was necessitated by the incommensurability of much ness with ma ny ness (as described above). But between the two, they carry the characteristics n e c e s s a r y fo r t h e c r e a t i o n o f m o d e r n a l g e b r a . A na lysis provides a mea ns of a r rivi ng at va r yi ng possibilities that still satisfy the requirement of what is sought and Diophantus’ Arithmetic provides a means of calculation using unknown numbers. It was Vieta (15 4 0 – 16 03) in his Analytic Art who attempted to carry out the combination of these two pr o c e s s e s . H i s m o t iv at i o n w a s to c r e ate a n a r t fo r de a l i ng w it h equ at ions t h at wou ld c onst it ute a general mathematical discipline. The establishment

Examples and further discussion of these “signs” in Diaphantus can be found in “World of Physics and the “Natural” World” In Lectures and Essays, 23 and in Origin of Algebra, 141-146. 26

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of such a disciple would lead to the solution of what he called the “problem of problems,” which was “TO LEAVE NO PROBLEM UNSOLVED.” 27 His optimism that such a lofty goal was possible was partly fueled by a suspicion that such a general disciple had been used , but c onc e a led , by t he a ncient a n a lysts a nd Diophantus. 2 8 “Vieta claims to have been the first to discover the ‘previously buried genuine gold’ of the ancient mathematicians, which they had guarded jealously, and whose possession allows Vieta to solve not only...’this and that problem’ singly, but precisely to m a n a ge pr oblem s of t h i s k i nd i n a ny de si r e d amount.” 29 Perhaps it is because he saw himself as rediscoveri ng rather tha n i n novati ng that he was comfortable moving beyond the limits of what ancient mathematical concepts allowed. Let us see how Vieta went about combining the two processes. As we noted before, analysis can arrive at multiple possibilities for satisfying a set of conditions. For example, the same process of analysis could be applied to any pentagon whatsoever. In such cases, what was “given” at the beginning of the analysis can be seen as not only indeterminate, but also general 30 (we might a lso say “va riable”). Seei ng th is, Vieta sought to incorporate that same generality into equations. If he could do that, instead of dealing with an equation like “two numbers and three units are equal to seven units”, he could deal instead with a far more general equation: “some unknown numbers and some number are equal to another number”, which can be written symbolically as ax+b=c. Here, the equation is merely given (like the thing sought in geometrical analysis), and its solution would apply to any determi nate equation i n the sa me form (i.e. 2x+3 =7 or

Smith, J. Winfree. Introduction to the Analytic Art. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1992),, 353. Capitalization not my own. 27

This suspicion was shared by many mathematicians, including Descartes and Fermat. “And Descartes is quite convinced that the Ancients - he expressly names Pappus along with Diophantus - deliberately erased the traces of their true knoweldge out of a kind of perverted cunning (perniciosa quadam astutia) and divulged to us, not their own art, but only a few of their results.” World of Physics and the “Natural” World p 13-14. 28

29

Origin of Algebra, 154. J U L E P | S P R I N G 2 014


5x+1= 6 ). The generality of ax+b=c therefore makes it prior to and more powerful than any of its more determinate forms. Because Diophantus had already shown a way to incorporate unknowns into calculation, Vieta needed only to enact this further generalization of equations to establish a n a na ly tic a r t of c a lculation. And in the use of symbols that represent this generalization, the first truly symbolic mathematics was formed. The decisive step here is that the indefinite, general objects (ax, b, c) are directly taken as numerical entities. 31 While the unknown in Diophantus was indeterminate only for us, these objects are indeterminate in themselves. They are not treated as abstracted from determinate objects (as an idea of “tree” is abstracted from many particular trees), but taken as the direct object of thinking. Yet in using them, we must take for granted the operations of calculating that arose out of a line of thinking that led back to the act of counting. So long as the dual determinateness of the arithmos is kept, th is l i ne age i n ma i nta i ned. But where D i o ph a nt u s ’ u n k n ow n ke pt t h i s d u a l ch a r a c te r, Vieta’s symbols (what he called “species”) do not. This is because, from the beginning, the generalization was meant to make the analytic art “indifferently applicable to numbers and to geometric magnitudes... In light of thi s procedure, the species...represent “general” magnitudes simply.” 32 This means that the symbols appropriate the numerical characteristics of arithmos (namely, their ability to be calculated with) without any explanation as to why they should have such characteristics. So long as “number” applied only to defi nite objects, its cha racteristics had a clear source in the world. Now that the symbols are

It is important to see that what is general in analysis is the procedure and not the object. In being merely given, the thing sought is only possible, and is always represented by actual drawn image. This image, being particular, obviously cannot be general. It can only exhibit what is true of all figures like it. Thus, it represents one among a collection of possible figures sought by the analysis, which carries out a general procedure. At no point is a general object part of the process. 30

31

Now only meaning that they can be calculated with. KEITH JOHNSON

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themselves the direct object, there is no such source to be found for them. T he ad m i ssio n of sy mb ol s i nto t he r e a l m of t he “numerical” indicates a transformation of the entire concept of number. Where incommensurability broke down, namely in the equal treatment of multitudes 33 a nd mag nitudes 3 4 by number (a nd with it, mak i ng ratios and calculating), the new concept of number succeeds. This is because, as result of the symbolic character of number (regardless of whether a number is determinate or indeterminate), it is general beyond characterization as either multitude or magnitude. It r e pl a c e s t h e “ m a ny n e s s ” of mu lt it ud e o r t h e “muchness” of magnitude with “quantity”, conceived as the characteristic of “number in general”. Just as “2” and “4” are now taken as instances of “number” (which can be directly grasped as a symbol such as “a”), muchness and manyness are taken as instances of this more general concept. With this interpretation of number, algebra, as the discipline that deals most pu r ely w it h t h e s e ge n e r a l o bj e c t s , w a s s e e n a s the discipline that underlies and makes possible all other mathematical procedures. It was for this reason t h at D e s c a r te s d e s i g n ate d a l ge br a a s m a t h e s i s u n ive r sa li s. 35 Wit hout it , mo der n m at hem at ic a l physics could not be possible and the laws of nature wou ld be i nex pressible. But t h is d i rect g raspi ng of ge n e r a l o bj e c t s a s o bj e c t s mu s t me a n o n e of two things: the discovery of a new kind of being or the deferring and subsequent forgetting of a host of ontological problems. 36 I began the essay with this quotation from Plato’s R e p u b l i c : “ T h e n , yo u n o ble m a n , [m at h e m at ic a l

32

Origin of Algebra, 166. Author’s italics

33

Things that are “so and so many”.

Things that are “just so much”. We should remind ourselves that the problem, more precisely, was the inability to give magnitudes the characteristics of arithmoi in certain cases (those of incommensurability). 34

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k now i ng] wou ld d r aw t he s ou l towa rd t r ut h a nd be productive of philosophic understanding in directing upward in what we now improperly direct downward.” 37 I am now in a position to explain its relevance. We should notice the directional language (“upward” and “downward”) and consider the significance. In this passage, Socrates places the importance of learning mathematics on its ability to prepare the soul to look “upward” toward what “is and is invisible,” 38 to learn n o t w it h t h e eye s but w it h t h e i ntel le c t . I n o u r d iscussion of the origin of number for thinking, along the road that bega n at the “ground level” of lived experience and led to the crisis of incommensurables, perhaps we were able to feel for ourselves some of this upward motion. A nd while that discussion did not arrive at a final answer to the question of what number is, we can appreciate the clarity of the starting ground out of which the answer might grow “upward”, so to speak, toward a true understanding. Where the question ought to begin and in which direction it naturally moves were always apparent. We can contrast that with the problem of the modern concept of number: With the introduction of symbolic calculation, the entire realm of number was shifted into a “heaven”, where perhaps number could itself remain a source but could never trace its roots to the world around us. From a realm of pure intellect, it has found its legitimation by being directed downward and used. Indeed, this had always been the intended result of those men who established the new concept, as their scientific interest had been “kindled mostly by problems of applied mechanics and applied optics, by problems of architecture, of machine construction, of painting, and of the newly discovered instrumental

He then identified the object of this highest mathematics with the object of “true” physics (namely, extension). There is then a directly line from this identification to the concept of “absolute space” in Newtonian physics. “The World of Physics and the “Natural” World.” In Lectures and Essays, 21. 35

36

Problems of what a thing is.

37

Plato’s Republic 527b (trans. Allan Bloom. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1991.)

38

Ibid. 529b

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optics.” 39 And it is here, in application, that the new science has proved its benefit (and continues to do so) over the scholastic science that immediately preceded it. Yet it is precisely in this connection of the new science to scholastic science that the key lies for understanding what Jacob Klein calls the “ruptured” relationship of ancient and modern thinking in the West. Unlike in Greek science, where “concepts are formed in continual dependence on ‘natural,’ prescientific ex per ienc e, from wh ich t he scient i fic c onc ept is ‘abstracted,’”40 the new science emerged as a reaction against an existing scholastic science. As a result, the appropriation by the new science of ancient texts came with attitudes and intentions foreign to the ancients. I nstead of attempti ng to retur n to a prescientific attitude and building up to an abstracted scientific concept, the new science begins and remains among a host of already abstract concepts. The questions of the new science therefore take their bearings not from the natural world but from the concepts around them. Not recognizing this difference meant a fundamental reinterpretation of the ancients that they looked to for answers. “And this reinterpretation of the ancient body of doctrine, which brings with it a characteristic transformation of all ancient concepts, lies at the foundation not only of all concept formation in our science, but also our ordinary intentionality, which is derived from the former.”41 This conflicted reliance on and misalignment with ancient thought is what leads K lein to describe the relation of ancient and modern thought as “ruptured”. And that is why, unlike the preceding discussion of the origin of number in thought, our discussion the origin of algebra had to be, to a certain extent, historical.

39

Origin of Algebra, 119

40

Origin of Algebra, 120

41

Origin of Algebra, 120

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And so our discussion of number has brought us to an aporia, to an impasse. We have not strictly proven the symbolic concept of number to be in error. Nor h ave we ex pl a i n e d wh at nu m b e r r e a l ly i s wh e n the ar ithmos concept of number is supposed to be true. To be sure, there is no shortage of sources that can help us pursue the question of number further. Even within Jacob Klein’s Origin of Algebra, there is excellent commentary on the disagreement regarding number between Plato and Aristotle, which moves t he d i sc u ssio n i nto more fu nd a me nt a l que st io n s regarding abstraction and being. But Klein himself never provides us with a defi nitive a nswer about what number is. He seems content to have brought the pursuit of an answer to an aporia, so long as the question itself has either become more clear or led to more relevant questions, much like Socrates would do in the so-called “aporetic dialogues” of Plato. We must, therefore, at least consider how we should respond to being brought to such an impasse. In Plato’s Meno, the character of Meno poses to Socrates the question whether excellence can be taught. Socrates never answers his question, but tries to lead Meno to see that “we shall know the clear truth... when, and only when, we shall have attempted to find what excellence all by itself is before searching for the way it might accrue to men.”42 In his commentary on the Meno, Jacob Klein reflects that “it is doubtful whether Meno understands the simplicity and immensity of the task set before him. Socrates urges him, and us, to embark upon the enterprise of learning.”43 Our aporia means that we have been shaken out of a mere working opinion of the world. And while the loss of a common sense notion can be agitating, it is a precondition for

42

Jacob Klein’s paraphrase.

Klein, Jacob. A Commentary on Plato’s Meno. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 256. 43

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the “simple and immense task” of learning. Without pursuing the sources of what we take for granted, we remain stuck with a peculiar common sense that keeps the world clear to us so long as we are content not to really know it. It is left to us to wonder how a concept as useful and impactful as “number” can be so little understood and see to it that it does not remain that way. We are now at least equipped with real alternatives for what we can mean by the word, along with some understanding of the relationship between them.

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L AT E NIGH T, E MP T Y S T R E E T — BUT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I S TAY ED A BIT LONGER?

THERON SPIEGL

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

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CA L EB GR EGORY is a n a r tist,

BEN RICHA RDSON lives in an

musician, and henchman of curiosity livi ng i n Nashvi l le, T N. He re ceived h is degree i n mathematics from Belmont University in 2012.

apartment in East Nashville with his wife and all his neighbors’ dogs. He writes for a number of clients in town and occasionally gets a bit of writing in for himself at copypoetcopy.com.

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H E AT H E R H AY D E N i s Na sh v i l le ’s lo ng- lo st golde n d au g hter. Nomad, sci-fem, etc. “If cleanliness i s next to godliness, what am I next to?” she asks. //

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University alumnus and co -founder of Made In Network. Ancient philosophy, Japan studies, and music production are his chief interests. //

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WHIT SMITH was born and raised in Nashville, studied philosophy at Aquinas College, and enjoys spendi ng ti me with h is fa mi ly, goi ng to mass, reading, and observing.

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K EITH JOHNSON is a Belmont

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THERON SPIEGL is an IT consulta nt from Pegra m, Ten nessee. He studied philosophy at Belmont University. He enjoys reading, camping, and sushi.

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PETER KURYLA teaches history at Belmont University in Nashville Tennessee, and he also writes about the South, civil rights, American philo s o phy a nd p ol it ic a l t h ou g ht . He is currently finishing up a book manuscript called “The Imagined Civil R ights Movement: A n I ntel lectua l and Cultural History.” He has lived below the Mason-Dixon line for over twenty years, with, as his last name might suggest, some small measure of the ambiguity that befits the New New South.

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Julep Journal - Issue 1  

The inaugural issue of Julep considers home, desire, and the city through the writings and art of seven Nashville residents. Woven through t...

Julep Journal - Issue 1  

The inaugural issue of Julep considers home, desire, and the city through the writings and art of seven Nashville residents. Woven through t...

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