IN DREAMS.

I’ve just gotten to Dan Chiasson’s Cavafy review essay, “Man with a Past,” in the March 23 New Yorker, and as a huge Cavafy fan I was reading along happily until I got to this: “By 1902, his mother, his three brothers, his grandfather, and two of his closest friends had died. Perhaps in response to all that loss, he turned away from the somnambulism of his early work. (Yeats, distancing himself from his own early work, got it right: ‘In dreams begin responsibilities.’)” And then I was unhappy.
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” is one of the most famous American short stories, and it’s by Delmore Schwartz. I presume he modeled the title on Yeats, who preceded his collection Responsibilities with the epigraph “In dreams begins responsibility,” with the source given as “Old play.” Very similar, yes, and it’s easy to confuse them, but back in the glory days of the New Yorker they would not have allowed the mistake to get into print.
But James Longenbach, in his Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism (Oxford UP, 1988), says the quote “is in fact from Nietzsche.” Anybody know any more about that?

Comments

  1. Dream and responsibility.— You are willing to assume responsibility for everything! Except, that is, for your dreams! What miserable weakness, what lack of consistent courage! Nothing is more your own than your dreams! Nothing more your own work! Content, form, duration, performer, spectator—in these comedies you are all of this yourself! And it is precisely here that you rebuff and are ashamed of yourselves, and even Oedipus, the wise Oedipus, derived consolation from the thought that we cannot help what we dream! From this I conclude that the great majority of mankind must be conscious of having abominable dreams. If it were otherwise, how greatly this nocturnal poetizing would have been exploited for the enhancement of human arrogance! —Do I have to add that the wise Oedipus was right, that we really are not responsible for our dreams—but just as little for our waking life, and that the doctrine of freedom of will has human pride and feeling of power for its father and mother? Perhaps I say this too often: but at least that does not make it an error.
    - Nietsche, Daybreak (Morgenröte. Gedanken über die moralischen Vorurteile), 1881

  2. I love that I went to the trouble to quote that and spelled Nietzsche wrong.

  3. and that the quote says the opposite of what Longenbach claims, sort of

  4. one of the most famous American short stories
    Huh — one I don’t know. Thanks for the link, looks like some good reading.

  5. Wow, that was fast—thanks, Dave! (And I generally copy-and-paste Nietzsche to make sure I don’t screw it up.)
    looks like some good reading.
    It’s a great story, far and away the best thing poor Delmore ever wrote.

  6. I found the same quotation with a second’s googling on “traum verantwortlichkeit”. Nietzsche appears to be first chastising a group of straw-men for believing that they are not responsible for their dreams, then explaining that in fact they are not responsible. Provocative!

  7. Nietzsche is great at starting out in one direction and switching directions twice in the course of about 50 words. He’s sort of a point guard. One of my theories is that his extensive training in Latin rhetoric and composition made it possible for him to be much smarter than anyone else because he could express more ideas quicker, while not letting his writing turn into a jumble of nonsequiturs or a long tedious Kantian paragraph-sentence.

  8. Nietzsche is great at starting out in one direction and switching directions twice in the course of about 50 words. He’s sort of a point guard. One of my theories is that his extensive training in Latin rhetoric and composition made it possible for him to be much smarter than anyone else because he could express more ideas quicker, while not letting his writing turn into a jumble of nonsequiturs or a long tedious Kantian paragraph-sentence.

  9. I’m not ordinarily a big Nietzsche fan, but I do love the way he’s willing to follow a line of thought even when it negates itself. If he acknowledged it and laughed at himself, it would be downright charming.

  10. komfo,amonan says:

    The thing that always strikes me about “Nietzsche” is its un-Germanness. It just doesn’t seem German to me. His father‘s family come from what was once Sorbian country (but is no longer). And many of the place names in the area contain that characteristic “zsch” cluster.
    That’s all I got.

  11. He claimed to be a Pole at times.

  12. He claimed to be a Pole at times.

  13. Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

  14. I do love the way he’s willing to follow a line of thought even when it negates itself. If he acknowledged it and laughed at himself, it would be downright charming.

    I am often astounded at what people say about things by Nietzsche that they have read. Following Deleuze in Nietzsche et la philosophie, you’d think Nietzsche was a pre-Socratic gnome (I’ve mentioned this before in a Hat thread).
    Dale says Nietzsche follows a line of thought even when it negates itself. I’m not sure what a thought negating itself might be. Is he saying that Nietzsche contradicts himself? Even in the short quoted section from Morgenröte, I see no contradictions. Are we reading the same text? Nietzsche is always charming in the sense Dale mentions. This apparently doesn’t come across in translations. Whose fault is that, if it is a fault, if it is a corrigible fault?
    The “group of straw-men” Vance refers to is the audience Nietzsche is addressing with the rhetorical “y’all”. It’s everybody and nobody, with or without hay in their hair.
    One person contradicting another is taken to be an unremarkable occurrence, while it is regarded as a Bad Thing when someone contradicts himself – unless poetic or rhetorical license can be issued (even when the person hasn’t applied for it), or the whole thing defused as “changing one’s mind”. What charmless demands on personality, knowledge, integrity etc. lurk behind those views?
    Recently there was a discussion here about the use of dashes (en-dash, em-dash). There is a nice old-fashioned way some German writers have of using a dash to say “(wait for it!)”. Nietzsche does it here, though the translation has elided it:

    Muss ich hinzufügen, dass der weise Oedipus Recht hatte, dass wir wirklich nicht für unsere Träume, — aber ebenso wenig für unser Wachen verantwortlich sind, …

    While I’m bitching about the tone of translations: “Except, that is, for your dreams”, by the addition of the professorial parenthesis “that is”, makes something stuffy out of the simple “Nur nicht für eure Träume”; “rebuff” is not the meaning of “ihr scheut euch” (you shrink from); “derived consolation” is not quite the sense of “wusste sich Trost aus dem Gedanken zu schöpfen” (managed / was clever enough / had the (good) sense, to extract consolation). Otherwise the translation has some good points, but on the whole it doesn’t convey Nietzsche’s style.

  15. SnowLeopard says:

    Whenever I tackle Nietzsche, I end up deciding it’s best to reserve the right to later decide that I’ve missed out on the irony, the joke, or some other diversionary tactic lurking in the text. Maybe that’s because I’m invariably told that I’ve misinterpreted him, as may well be the case here. But Oedipus is presumably a mythical figure and/or literary creation, i.e., a sort of dream-figure, and if we’re not responsible for what we dream, it seems doubtful that we should attach much significance to what we’re told in a fictional narrative, any more than that we should be held morally accountable for the Oedipal crimes we read about there. So I suspect that, from Nietzsche’s perspective, a superior individual would accept responsibility for their dreams, and proudly so; failing to do so is pusillanimous.
    It reminds me of a description I once heard about Lenin, but for which I have no attribution, that he “dreamed only of Revolution.” Which is not to presume that Nietzsche would have accepted the comparison.

  16. It is the king in Sophocle’s play Oedipus Rex that Nietzsche is referring to, not that Freudian contraption. Freud came in later, and left sooner.
    I can’t follow the implication expressed by your “a mythical figure and/or literary creation, i.e., a sort of dream-figure”. The character of Oedipus in Sophocle’s play is a concrete character, not a dream-figure. Is Huckleberry Finn a dream-figure? You can dream about him, I suppose, but that doesn’t make you Tom Sawyer.

  17. Bubbles’ mother spoiled her (I just know Mr. N is going to jump on my case)

  18. AJP Crone says:

    You people should listen to Grumbly Stu, he really knows what he’s talking about and he understands Nietzsche much better than most of you. Thank you Stu.

  19. Well, JJ, I don’t know about that. I haven’t said anything new about Nietzsche – just carped about the way other people deal with him.
    Last night I started Sloterdijk’s new book “Du mußt dein Leben ändern”, in which, among other things, he gives the reader new ways of thinking about the Genealogie der Moral. Apart from Nietzsche himself, that’s the kind of stuff one can read with profit.
    Sloterdijk’s title is from our punch-line poet Rilke:


    Archaischer Torso Apollos
    Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
    darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber
    sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
    in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,
    sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
    der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
    der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
    zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.
    Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz
    unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
    und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;
    und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
    aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
    die dich nicht sieht. Du musst dein Leben ändern.

  20. That Rilke poem was one of the first poems to hit me right where I lived and knock me over backwards when I was young and just learning to read poetry, and one of the few German poems ever to do so. A hell of a poet, Rilke.

  21. jamessal says:

    One person contradicting another is taken to be an unremarkable occurrence, while it is regarded as a Bad Thing when someone contradicts himself – unless poetic or rhetorical license can be issued (even when the person hasn’t applied for it), or the whole thing defused as “changing one’s mind”. What charmless demands on personality, knowledge, integrity etc. lurk behind those views?
    Yes! Go Grumbly!

  22. jamessal says:

    Language Hat: You must change your life!

  23. dearieme says:

    I assumed that the American tradition would assign it to Jefferson or Franklin. Or Mark Twain, or his Pappy, or the Good Book.

  24. SnowLeopard says:

    It is the king in Sophocle’s play Oedipus Rex that Nietzsche is referring to, not that Freudian contraption. Freud came in later, and left sooner.
    Without belaboring the point, suffice it to say that I do know who Oedipus was, and do know that Nietzsche preceded Freud rather than vice versa. My point was that Oedipus was a fictional character described to us by a playwright, as you apparently concur, rather than a historical figure who left writings of his own. “He”, this fictional person, or perhaps Sophocles if you prefer, is therefore no more accountable for the accuracy of his commentary than we are for our dreams, or our conduct therein. I was thinking of Nietzsche’s mockery elsewhere of the tendency to quote poets as sources of philosophical authority as a clue to how (little) seriously we should be taking him here.

  25. I don’t think that Nietzsche contradicts himself right there on the spot. That is, when he keeps switching direction (like an open-field runner, for another sports metaphor), he normally puts in enough traffic directions (“even more than that”, “but rather”, “isn’t it really instead”, etc.) that his sentence or paragraph makes good sense as a whole. He picks up ideas to toy with them, or to tease the reader, or deliberately for the purpose of flinging them down later, or as mere introductions to better ideas.
    Comparing one of his books to another, or comparing different sections from the same or different books, you can find real contradictions too, but every author is like that. Sometimes he’s just changed his mind without being able to erase what he’d written earlier. (He wrote several new prefaces to his old books.) Other times, like any author, he just hasn’t thought everything out, or is just not terribly interested in certain points.
    The beauty of his writing is that he could do all these direction changes without being tedious and affected, and I think that that’s why his style and linguistic virtuosity are key to his work. He could not have said what he said at all if he’s written more straightforwardly, or if he’d been less fluent.
    If Hegel, Marx, and Freud had been better writers, I think that they would have been better thinkers. Probably none of them is as bad as people think they are, based on translations, but none could hold a candle to Nietzsche.

  26. I don’t think that Nietzsche contradicts himself right there on the spot. That is, when he keeps switching direction (like an open-field runner, for another sports metaphor), he normally puts in enough traffic directions (“even more than that”, “but rather”, “isn’t it really instead”, etc.) that his sentence or paragraph makes good sense as a whole. He picks up ideas to toy with them, or to tease the reader, or deliberately for the purpose of flinging them down later, or as mere introductions to better ideas.
    Comparing one of his books to another, or comparing different sections from the same or different books, you can find real contradictions too, but every author is like that. Sometimes he’s just changed his mind without being able to erase what he’d written earlier. (He wrote several new prefaces to his old books.) Other times, like any author, he just hasn’t thought everything out, or is just not terribly interested in certain points.
    The beauty of his writing is that he could do all these direction changes without being tedious and affected, and I think that that’s why his style and linguistic virtuosity are key to his work. He could not have said what he said at all if he’s written more straightforwardly, or if he’d been less fluent.
    If Hegel, Marx, and Freud had been better writers, I think that they would have been better thinkers. Probably none of them is as bad as people think they are, based on translations, but none could hold a candle to Nietzsche.

  27. AJP Drone says:

    Stu, have you read Wittgenstein in German? What did you think of the writing?

  28. John tells it like it is.

  29. I was so please with my two comments here that I revised them and added them to my Nietzsche-Rimbaud-St. Augustine page as an appendix. (At my URL).
    Couldn’t have done it without ya, guys!

  30. I was so please with my two comments here that I revised them and added them to my Nietzsche-Rimbaud-St. Augustine page as an appendix. (At my URL).
    Couldn’t have done it without ya, guys!

  31. This thread is confusing the hell out of me. Where is the self-contradiction? How could you possibly come to the conclusion that “from Nietzsche’s perspective, a superior individual would accept responsibility for their dreams, and proudly so”? That’s not Nietzsche–that’s pseudo-Nietzsche, Hitler-Nietzsche, Ayn Rand-Nietzsche.
    Here is what Nietzsche is saying:
    1) We normally believe in free will, that what happens in our waking life is the product of a conscious and deliberate decision with moral consequences.
    2) But we think of dreams as an irrational, uncontrollable process, something that happens to us rather than something we control. We think this way about dreams because we are really ashamed of them and want to avoid taking responsibility for having them. (If we were proud of our dreams, we would view them as our own conscious creations.) Thus, Oedipus could try to ameliorate some of his burden of guilt by shunting it off into a realm where responsibility was absent.
    3) But in fact Oedipus was as little “responsible” for his waking actions as for his dreams. Free will and conscious choice are illusions; pretending that the subject is the source of what happens in his life is the classic tactic of slave morality. What we should be doing is renouncing any claim to “responsibility.”
    Seems crystal-clear to me.

  32. I mean, obviously people don’t expect this sort of thing from Nietzsche because they think Nietzsche is some kind of radical-freedom existentialist. But come on: the man’s entire corpus of work was dedicated to destroying the idea of free will, especially in its German Idealist incarnations.
    (Stu, your comments are right on.)

  33. AJP Prone says:

    If Hegel, Marx, and Freud had been better writers, I think that they would have been better thinkers.
    Yeah, well, Marx, Hegel and Freud weren’t real writers (for one thing, they had NO sense of humour except for Groucho), whereas Nietzsche was. Someone wrote a preface to Human, All Too Human, saying that !9th Century Germans who wrote philosophy were the equivalent of 19th Century British novelists and I think that’s true, though it wouldn’t really be quite as convincing in the preface to anyone’s work except Nietzsche’s. The others didn’t write so well. I wonder if his having been a philologist helped his writing? Linguists write well, most of them.

  34. JJ, I read some Wittgenstein when I was around 16, before I learned German. Much later, I skimmed the Tractatus in German. No point in evaluating the style of gnomic utterances.
    The internet is lousy with Wittgenstein in English. I thought I could find something in German, say from the Philosophische Untersuchungen, and give you a used-car-dealer quick appraisal of his style – but I found nothing.

  35. SnowLeopard says:

    Having compared slawkenbergius’s commentary to the quoted text, I can accept his corrections to my effort at interpretation.

  36. Stu — I read some bits of Philosophische Untersuchungen and found it very nice stylistically, it was a pleasure to listen to his voice — my trouble was more with the content which I had a hard time getting my head around. Did not really put that much effort into it though.

  37. Philosophische Untersuchungen in German, online. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

  38. Holy crap, I’m not going to try reading Wittgenstein in German! You must be mistaking me for Conrad.

  39. That wasn’t for you, you peon, it was for Grumbly, who said:
    I thought I could find something in German, say from the Philosophische Untersuchungen, and give you a used-car-dealer quick appraisal of his style – but I found nothing.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    Try it anyway, AJP, and if you want something more general, click on “Wittgenstein” on the same page.

  41. Thanx, Hat! All of PU on one page that I just downloaded! A curious feature is that, when you click on one of the blue section numbers of the page when you’re online, the whole text morphs into Japanese (I guess):
    以下において私は、自らの思想、つまりここ16年間私が従事してきた哲学的探究の成果を述べようと思う。この探究の扱うテーマは多岐にわたっている。例えば意味、理解、文、論理、数学の基礎、意識状態といった概念が扱われる。私はこれらの思想全てを覚え書きや短い断章として書き留めてきた。それらの断章は、時には一つのテーマについての長い連鎖を成し、時には一つの分野から別の分野へ次々に跳び移っている。私の意図は、最初から、これら全てを一つの本にまとめることにあった。本の体裁についてはその時々で色々な形式を考えていたが、本質的な点では、これらの思想が一つのテーマから別のテーマへ自然で間隙のない連続をなすべきであると考えていた。

  42. AJPCrown says:

    Oh, good. Wittgenstein in Japanese.
    I’m going to tell my wife you guys are bullying me.

  43. While I’m surreptiously kicking the tires of W’s prose, let me ask a general question. Do the typographical arts exist for Japanese and Russian? The Japanese above reminded me of my reaction to the site on Barskova to which you linked. It seems to me that I have never seen more than one Russian lettertype, and that type is very wearing on my eyes. No majuscule/miniscule differences, hardly anything to relieve the tedium.

  44. No majuscule/miniscule differences
    Huh? Is this the page you mean? Surely you can see the majuscule/miniscule differences; they’re very much like those in English. And there are indeed different typefaces in Russian; see this site, for instance.

  45. Well, yes, on that page I see the maj/min differences. And the typefaces on the other page are very artistic, but not much used, I wager. Look at a Pravda page one. It’s all monospaced – some is larger, some is smaller, there’s a bit of bold and “Arial”, but I find it monotonous. Contrast and compare page one of the NY Times.
    Maybe I’m just out of practice. But what about Japanese or Chinese, languages with a calligraphic tradition? Does it even make sense to ask about different typefaces there (i.e. in printed material)?

  46. marie-lucie says:

    you guys are bullying me.
    Just a joke, AJP. I was as stunned as you were, and Grumbly too.

  47. Contrast and compare page one of the NY Times.
    Pravda is at the opposite pole from the NY Times; it’s more comparable to the NY Post or some other bottom-feeding tabloid. But yes, it’s true that in general there’s less graphic variety in everyday Russian typography, but give them a break—they’re coming off 70 years of centrally imposed boredom. In the first couple decades of the 20th century, Russians were at the forefront of design.
    But what about Japanese or Chinese, languages with a calligraphic tradition? Does it even make sense to ask about different typefaces there (i.e. in printed material)?
    Yes, it makes sense, but I don’t know the details; hopefully someone who does will show up and explain.

  48. Russian typeface often looks more monotonous because Cyrillic lower-case letters are more typically on the line. Latin lower case typefaces typically have more letters above and below the line. Compare “typography” (two letters above the line, four below) to “типографика” (one below, one above and below) or look at “использование” or “высказывается” – it’s hard to find a word in English that long where all the letters are on the line in lower case, in Russian it’s fairly common.
    But in its italic or written forms Russian is no more monotonous than English.
    In advertising and graphic arts Japanese uses a wide range of typefaces (I think Neojaponisme.com has written extensively on this). But my impression is that you are correct that there are limited typefaces available when it comes to printed books and fonts for computers. I assume that’s simply because the time and expense of creating 5000+ Kanji in different styles is obviously significant.

  49. I’ve been told that grumbling about the esthetic mediocrity of printed Chinese is a common Chinese practice. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a Chinese printed book that was better than mediocre, except photo reproductions of the old lithographs (from carved wooden printer’s plates), and they were nothing special.
    There is a certain variett of faces, though.

  50. I’ve been told that grumbling about the esthetic mediocrity of printed Chinese is a common Chinese practice. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a Chinese printed book that was better than mediocre, except photo reproductions of the old lithographs (from carved wooden printer’s plates), and they were nothing special.
    There is a certain variett of faces, though.

  51. You guys shouldn’t mess with Kron like that.

  52. JJ, I’ve now read a bit of the PU. I don’t know why you wondered what I think of Wittgenstein’s style. It is very straightforward, unadorned and easy on the grey cells – as far as style goes. I would go with what Jeremy said:

    I read some bits of Philosophische Untersuchungen and found it very nice stylistically, it was a pleasure to listen to his voice — my trouble was more with the content which I had a hard time getting my head around.

  53. A J P Crown says:

    No, I just asked what you thought of it in German, because I fing it hard to understand in English. I’m sorry I put you to so much trouble, though if it in any way aroused an interest in Witt., I think it was in a good cause. I do think it is worth understanding (the PU, that is, not the first one. I hate that Bertrand Russelly, besserwiesser stuff.) Coincidentally, Jamessal, (who recommended The Metaphysical Club, by Louis Menand to us), yesterday recommended to me George Lakoff’s book, Metaphors We Live By, and when I looked him up I found that he seems to be interested in the same sort of thing as Wittgenstein. From his wiki article:

    Metaphor has been seen within the Western scientific tradition as purely a linguistic construction. The essential thrust of Lakoff’s work has been the argument that metaphors are primarily a conceptual construction, and indeed are central to the development of thought. He says, “Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.” Non-metaphorical thought is for Lakoff only possible when we talk about purely physical reality. For Lakoff the greater the level of abstraction the more layers of metaphor are required to express it. People do not notice these metaphors for various reasons. One reason is that some metaphors become ‘dead’ and we no longer recognize their origin. Another reason is that we just don’t “see” what is “going on”.
    For instance, in intellectual debate the underlying metaphor is usually that argument is war (later revised as “argument is struggle”):
    He won the argument.
    Your claims are indefensible.
    He shot down all my arguments.
    His criticisms were right on target.
    If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.
    For Lakoff, the development of thought has been the process of developing better metaphors. The application of one domain of knowledge to another domain of knowledge offers new perceptions and understandings.
    Lakoff’s theory has applications throughout all academic disciplines and much of human social interaction.

    Maybe it’s easier to understand than Wittgenstein.

  54. A J P Crown says:

    you guys are bullying me.
    Just a joke, AJP. I was as stunned as you were, and Grumbly too.
    And an excellent joke it was, Marie-Lucie: all the more funny for being dead pan, and I did laugh out loud. My comment was also meant to be funny, which goes to show that there is value in the emoticons: if I’d used one there would have been no doubt.
    Emoticons aren’t necessary in fiction narratives because the set-up of the joke in question can be described, but if you don’t have that — and you cannot hear the tone of voice of the joker either — then there is often some doubt. My only problem with typed graphics is that the ‘drawing’ is sometimes cruder than the words, and that can be jarring.

  55. Come on, weenies, Corona was born to be bullied. Deep down he likes it.

  56. Come on, weenies, Corona was born to be bullied. Deep down he likes it.

  57. Of course he deserves it, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. See? Even now he is exhibiting symptoms of the Stockholm syndrome.
    That isn’t the reason you shouldn’t torture him though. The reason you shouldn’t torture him is he threatened to tell his wife. His Norwegian wife. I see none of you has read the sagas or you would be quivering in your boots. When Viking women decide to elevate a perceived slight to the level of a feud, the only possible outcome is blood on the ground and lots of it. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  58. SnowLeopard says:

    Nijma: Can you recommend any sagas written outside of Iceland (for example, Norway)? I thought the two volumes of Icelandic ones I read a few years back were extraordinary, and I’d be curious how any written elsewhere might compare.

  59. A J P Crown says:

    My wife and my daughter are very tall. My daughter arrives on horseback and my wife has a very sharp axe.

  60. Is Kron one of those Norse with a penis so large that he can make no woman happy? Per Njal’s saga, it’s apparently a fairly common condition over there.

  61. Is Kron one of those Norse with a penis so large that he can make no woman happy? Per Njal’s saga, it’s apparently a fairly common condition over there.

  62. A J P 'Dick' Crown says:

    When I go public with my penis size you’ll be the first to know, John.
    And I’m Australian, not Norse.
    And it’s Njål, not Njal.

  63. Per Njal’s Saga it was a one time curse placed on Hrut Herjolfsson by the King’s mother Queen Gunnhild, who cannot have been too unhappy with his favors because she gave him two longships and Ulf the Unwashed (one of the gestasveit–King’s Spies) to command them, plus a gold bracelet, plus she had a guy killed for him so he could get back his inheritance. The curse only applied to “the woman in Iceland on whom you have set your heart”…”because you did not trust me with the truth.” Of course she wanted him to stay in Norway but he stiffed her and went back to Iceland, if that isn’t an oxymoron.
    If a Norwegian queen can make a curse like that stick halfway across an ocean, I wouldn’t think JE would be safe from the Kroner women even in Seattle.

  64. Actually it’s “Njál”.

  65. SnowLeopard,
    I don’t know of any non-Icelandic sagas. I think it’s part of the definition. One of the reasons the sagas were preserved in Iceland was the need to kill off a large number of sheep to get through the winter, so there was a good supply of vellum for writing.
    There are sagas about other places. For instance Eirik the Red and The Vinland Sagas are about the Vikings in the New World. Orkneyinga Saga is about the Orkneys and Caithness. King Harald’s Saga is in England at the close of the Viking age three weeks before the Battle of Hastings. The first part of Snorri Sturleson’s Heimskringla is about Norway. A fun group of shorter sagas without a specific geographical setting (although I think it is Norway) is Seven Viking Romances. To me the stories of Arrow-Odd and the others are more interesting than either the Mabinogion or the Kalevala.

  66. Breaking: John Holbo’s real name is Holbø. Or did I say that already somewhere?

  67. Breaking: John Holbo’s real name is Holbø. Or did I say that already somewhere?

  68. SnowLeopard says:

    Nijma,
    I already own and have read the Eirik the Red/ Vinland sagas, but not have the others you mentioned. Thanks for the recommendations.

  69. Coincidentally, Jamessal, (who recommended The Metaphysical Club, by Louis Menand to us), yesterday recommended to me George Lakoff’s book, Metaphors We Live By
    Coincidentally, I started reading that a couple of days ago. It is set in the late 70s, so the preface is particularly amusing: having renounced Western Philosophy Since The Greeks, they (for they are two(2)) go on to plonk themselves in, among others, the tradition of Paul Ricoeur, whose own book on metaphor starts very firmly with Aristotle.
    So far as I’ve got it’s rather jolly, but I have a feeling it will all lead to the cod-phenomenological critique of AI, that computers can’t do language unless and until they get Embodied, because only Embodied entities can like ground their metaphors, man.
    (It is probably also possible not to read it as a book about AI at all, but I for one lack the knack of reading linguistics any other way.)
    Also, Nietzsche writes better. Fact!

  70. A J P Crown says:

    No, actually, in Norwegian, it’s Njål. It’s pronounced Njål, not ‘njal’.

  71. A J P Crown says:

    Nij: The first part of Snorri Sturleson’s Heimskringla is about Norway.
    I think this is the best-known one in Norway. He’s known as Snorre, here, though.

  72. A J P Crown says:

    Des: It is probably also possible not to read it as a book about AI at all, but I for one lack the knack of reading linguistics any other way.
    Jamessal is busy, so I’m his amanuensis. Yesterday he sent me this, which it sounds like something you might enjoy, though you’ve probably read it (I hadn’t).

    Also, because I saw you posted that bit about Lakoff, here’s a link to one of my favorite passages about metaphor and meaning, from Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 The novel is about artificial intelligence, and the computer (“F”), after being fed information for several weeks, has just come up with its own metaphor: “The trees bald.” The two paragraphs I like start with “Associations of associations.”

  73. marie-lucie says:

    Metaphors we live by is a short, easy to read book about unrecognized metaphors in everyday language, written by linguists but not for linguists.

  74. jamessal says:

    Jamessal is busy, so I’m his amanuensis.
    I’ve always wanted one of those — thanks, Kron!
    For those interested, it was Hat who turned me onto Powers (I think), here and here.

  75. jamessal says:

    Metaphors we live by is a short, easy to read book about unrecognized metaphors in everyday language, written by linguists but not for linguists.
    Well, it’s short and lucid, but it’s not like one of those popularizers by David Crystal — you’re not riffling the pages. If I’m remembering right, it has some philosophical ambition.

  76. marie-lucie says:

    Jamessal, if you want more philosophical ambition (and a heavier tome), you can read Lakoff’s Women, Fire and Dangerous Things.

  77. jamessal says:

    632 pages of contemporary philosophy! I wonder what Jerry Fodor would say (from this piece — http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n18/fodo01_.html — in the LRB: These days nobody writes philosophy in chunks of four hundred pages (plus notes). Partly that’s just fashion; partly it’s tenure politics; but mostly it’s because the problems philosophers work on have turned out to be much more subtle than we used to suppose them, and much more idiosyncratic. You have to do them one at a time, and the progress you make is generally inch by inch. For better or worse (I think, in fact, it’s much for the better), almost nobody has ‘a philosophy’ any more. What one has, if one is lucky, is a glimpse of an insight into (as it might be) the semantics of intentional contexts; or the behaviour of modals in obligation ascriptions; or the way natural laws support counterfactuals; or whether knowledge is warranted true belief – and what, while we’re at it, does ‘warranted’ mean? After what seems in retrospect to have been a very extended adolescence, philosophy has settled into workaday middle age. It comes to all of us sooner or later.) Sorry for posting yet another random quote; I’m too logy to stay on topic or think for myself. And thank you, ML, for the recommendation; Fodor notwithstanding, I’ve added “Women” to my wish list.

  78. Jim, I like Fodor very much. He’s as ‘cute as a bug, but in your quote he’s doing the highly sophisticated ingenuous Fodor thing. None of his performances in the LRB or TLS can be called “workaday”. Publicly, he’s out there catch-weighting with the high and mighty, no holes barred.
    Sloterdijk’s new book, which I’m reading hot off the press, has 700 pages.

  79. He’s known as Snorre, here, though.
    According to wiki, “The Old Norse/Icelandic spelling of the name is Snorri Sturluson. Snorre Sturlason is the modern Norwegian and Snorre Sturlasson the modern Swedish spelling.” Sagas translated by Pálsson and Edwards refer to him as Snorri; the Dover edition of Heimskringla spells it Snorre.
    Actually it’s “Njál”.
    The Magnusson and Pálsson saga translation notes that it has dropped the accents from names. The definitive Old Icelandic edition of the text is Einar Ólafur Sveinsson’s Brennu-Njáls Saga.
    For those who just want to read a saga or two with an Icelandic setting, the classic Laxdæla Saga (c 1245) has the stories of Olaf the Peacock and Gudrun’s four marriages. Grettir’s Saga with the story of the exiled giant is also fairly well known. Any inquiring minds with a burning curiosity about the size of Viking peni (is that the plural?) might want to google the info for Grettir.

  80. A J P Crown says:

    Yes, I said they’re called Snorre and Njål in Norway, and they are, I stand by that. You and John can say Njal if you’re trying to act Icelandic. If you say ‘Njal’ here, though, people will think you’re ill.
    It seems, from ‘Pálsson’, that á is probably just the idiosyncratic Icelanders’ way of writing å. Of course, that’s what got them into this mess in the first place, that and voting to kill Wales. Should anyone want to argue, I have Auden to back me on this.

  81. In modern Icelandic, I believe á is pronounced /aw/ (that is, like the “ow” of owl).

  82. AJP,
    I had no idea the Icelanders were such anticambrites.
    I knew there was rivalry between Mabinogion lovers and Njáls Saga fans but that’s ridiculous.

  83. A J P Crown says:

    In Norwegian, å is like the “aw” of “awl”, as I’m sure you know.

  84. A J P Crown says:

    Their rivalry with the Scots is well known and nearly led to war in the nineteen-sixties. They had a referendum, that resulted in a majority coming out in favor of killing Wales, a couple of years ago.

  85. jamessal says:

    Jim, I like Fodor very much. He’s as ‘cute as a bug, but in your quote he’s doing the highly sophisticated ingenuous Fodor thing. None of his performances in the LRB or TLS can be called “workaday”.
    Thanks, Stu. I did of course have a sense that he wasn’t exactly straight-faced in his LRB pieces — enough to nod my head knowingly at “sophisticated ingenuous Fodor thing” — but not enough, I guess, to recognize all the winks. I probably should read one of his books; I know “The Language of Thought” was a big deal, but I’ve had my eye on “Hume Variations.” Have you read either?

  86. A J P Crown says:

    Stu, if I google ‘catch-weighting’, it comes up as having something to do with landings of North Sea cod and haddock by nation. How does Jerry Fodor fit in? He always seems very nice and funny in the LRB. Wasn’t he listed as one of the former students of what’s ‘is name, Sidney Besserwetter?

  87. I took “catch-weighting” to mean “throwing his weight around,” and didn’t question it (I suppose) because I liked the sound — but I hadn’t heard it before. Defend your phrase, Grumbly!

  88. Also, now that we’re taking an indecent look at your prose, I can’t say I make much sense of “ingenuous” either. (Maybe if I could, I’d know how to read him better.) “Disingenuous”?

  89. catch-weighting … cod and haddock … Defend your phrase, Grumbly!

    I was thinking about Fodor and Dawkins doing some of that theatrical wrestling on TV that in Germany is called “Catchen”. I don’t know what it’s called in English, so I googled with “catch” and something else (can’t remember) and found a boxing reference:

    Catchweight (or catch weight) usually refers to a weight between two recognized weight classes mutually agreed-upon by the two boxing participants; traditionally, they meet in middle. It also refers to boxers coming in at any weight, with no participant weight restrictions.

    Also, “highly sophisticated ingenuous” is intended to mean “disingenuous” (like this explanation).
    Yes, Fodor was said to have studied with Sidney Morgenbesser. I’ve never read anything by him except for the TLS and LRB articles. He is nice and funny, but I should read one of his books to see if there’s more to it. “Hume variations” appeals to me. You read it first, Jim, I’m in the middle of The Pound Era, The Metaphysical Club and Du mußt dein Leben ändern, and it’s all your fault.

  90. Isn’t there a Dickensian phonologist named Birdwhistell.
    Lots of names like that. I have a cousin named Quackenbush, and have met a Pieplenbosch, and there’s a singer named Birdsong, and a few Voegelsangs here and there.

  91. Isn’t there a Dickensian phonologist named Birdwhistell.
    Lots of names like that. I have a cousin named Quackenbush, and have met a Pieplenbosch, and there’s a singer named Birdsong, and a few Voegelsangs here and there.

  92. I liked Richard Power’s Goldbug Variations, so if he has an AI novel I should probably read it. Does it come with source code?

  93. If it’s a good AI novel, it should be self-explanatory, like good code is supposed to be. So the novel is the code, and the answer to your question is yes.
    Of course, it may not compile on your system – and even if it does, it may not work for you.

  94. Having just persued des von bladets site for the first time, I am green with admiration and quiet zealous. He is forging the lambwidge of the future, folks.

  95. A J P Crown says:

    I don’t know if it comes with sauce. There’s a well-known English composer called Harrison Birtwhistle. I’d never associated the name with ‘bird’ before now. John is a big fan of Des, and vice versa, probably. I’m a big fan, too.

  96. David Marjanović says:

    There is a nice old-fashioned way some German writers have of using a dash to say “(wait for it!)”. Nietzsche does it here, though the translation has elided it:

    Muss ich hinzufügen, dass der weise Oedipus Recht hatte, dass wir wirklich nicht für unsere Träume, — aber ebenso wenig für unser Wachen verantwortlich sind, …

    I’d have done it the same way, except I wouldn’t put a comma in front of the dash. I’d pronounce the dash as a pretty long pause followed by a loud glottal stop (regardless of the next sound even!).

    I read some Wittgenstein when I was around 16, before I learned German. Much later, I skimmed the Tractatus in German. No point in evaluating the style of gnomic utterances.

    Ha! Those gnomic utterances come across like I’m told psalms come across in the original Hebrew!
    Take “The world is all that is the case.” That sounds like “bla bla bla bla blah”. But in the original, it sounds like a weather god sitting on a mountaintop, surrounded by black clouds, and thundering from on high: 1.0. Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist. Every stressed syllable reverberates in your ears — and there are only three really unstressed syllables in this one.
    Then there are things like… like English lacking a verb for “not speaking”. Alles, was sich sagen läßt, das läßt sich klar sagen. Was sich nicht klar sagen läßt, darüber muß man schweigen. You could get the sound of “muß — man — schweigen” across by “must — shut — up”, but that would be too colloquial and not authoritative enough; you’d smile instead of getting the Fear of God.
    “Speak forcefully.”
    – Klingon Language Academy

    In modern Icelandic, I believe á is pronounced /aw/ (that is, like the “ow” of owl).

    Correct. They’ve done a lot of — mostly counterintuitive — sound shifts over the last 1000 years.

    peni (is that the plural?)

    Try penes.

  97. Name-dropping:
    My mother, Marianne Cowan, published translations in the early 60s of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil that are way better than Kaufman’s, not that that’s a hard target to hit.
    When I worked at Reuters Health, a cow orker of mine was Kate Fodor. When I started there, I blurted out “Are you one of those Fodors?” She was.
    Ray Birdwhistell I didn’t know, but I do know that he specialized in non-verbal communication.

  98. Try penes.
    Good heavens, that’s a real word. Maybe even obscure enough to be discreet.

  99. using a dash to say “(wait for it!)”
    Am I the only person here who finds these discussions of what punctuation is supposed to “mean” a little odd?
    way better than Kaufman’s
    I don’t suppose anyone has a good translation of Heidegger, or is he just murky in German too. Or is Dennett and consciousness the direction that philosophy is going these days. IIRC, some say Nietzsche was totally unknown until Kaufman resurrected him with a translation genius that wasn’t in the original.

  100. English lacking a verb for “not speaking”

    “Zip up” can be seen to be the mot juste for what Wittgenstein is saying. There’s more than thundering tautology in

    Was sich überhaupt sagen läßt, läßt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.

    [Whatever can be said at all, can be said clearly. On things about which one cannot speak, one must remain silent.]

    Allow me to pump up the volume in accordance with Klingonian principles:

    Was sich überhaupt sagen läßt, sollte klar gesagt werden; und wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber müßte man schweigen. Also raff’ dich zusammen!

    [Whatever can be said at all, should be said clearly. On things about which one cannot speak, one ought to zip up. So pull yourself together, dude!]

  101. Take “The world is all that is the case.”
    This is the only sentence I actually read in the Tractatus. Since the world is no such thing there didn’t seem a lot of point continuing.
    I have the first chunk of Sein und Zeit in Zwedish, but while it is necessarily better than Engleesh, it is not very pleasant. (I highly recommend Jean Wahl’s Introduction à la pensée de Heidegger: it is a summary of the notes he took from one of H’s courses combined with his mature commentary, and some particularly entertaining notes on translating it all to French. Also it is in stock at Amazon.fr at EUR 5.80, which is the sort of thing that causes me to read more French paperbacks than is strictly sensible.)

  102. My mother, Marianne Cowan, published translations in the early 60s of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil that are way better than Kaufman’s, not that that’s a hard target to hit.

    I’m going to order the Good and Evil, John. It’s a crying shame that so many only-English-speaking people mistake what Nietzsche is on about. He refers to himself mostly as a psychologist, not a philosopher. The style is important before all things. Never mind the difficulties in translating Heidegger, Sloterdijk and the rest. Nietzsche is at their source.
    Your mother’s Zarathustra seems to be out of print. I’ve read everything Nietzsche published except for that, because it’s always seemed to me icky-religioid and contrived – very allegory-on-the-banks-of-the-Nile. But Sloterdijk comes back to it again and again, so my resistance is being eroded.

  103. in stock at Amazon.fr at EUR 5.80, which is the sort of thing that causes me to read more French paperbacks than is strictly sensible.

    That is exactly the reason I read so much French. The stw paperbacks (Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft) are comparably cheap, so I also overstuff with them while commuting on the train. Since I can’t keep it all down, I sometimes get strange looks from the bankers in Frankfurt at my current project when I open my mouth. Life, she is unfair.

  104. A J P Crown says:

    Thanks, David, for your comments on Wittgenstein. That was exactly what I wanted to know and I love your description of the differences between the original and the translation. It’s selfish, but I feel you’re being wasted thinking up names for plankton when you could be translating philosophy.

  105. I second AJP’s enthusiasm for David’s informative and enthusiastic commentary. Leave the plankton behind! Come over to the side of the higher mammals!

  106. A J P Crown says:

    Dave: in the original, it sounds like a weather god sitting on a mountaintop, surrounded by black clouds, and thundering from on high: 1.0. Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist. Every stressed syllable reverberates in your ears — and there are only three really unstressed syllables
    God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train. –John Maynard Keynes, reporting Wittgenstein’s return to Cambridge in 1929.

  107. A J P Crown says:

    Damn. That should have been: Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train.
    The ‘well’ makes all the difference to the sarcastic intent, I think.

  108. John, your mother’s BGE was the first Nietzsche I ever read, in 1963, and I’ll always, always love it. One of the great events of my life. If she’s still around, thank her for me.

  109. John, your mother’s BGE was the first Nietzsche I ever read, in 1963, and I’ll always, always love it. One of the great events of my life. If she’s still around, thank her for me.

  110. David Marjanović says:

    Am I the only person here who finds these discussions of what punctuation is supposed to “mean” a little odd?

    Apparently :-)

    I don’t suppose anyone has a good translation of Heidegger, or is he just murky in German too.

    I’m told he is.

    It’s selfish, but I feel you’re being wasted thinking up names for plankton

    What? That’s not what I’m doing. The topic of my ongoing doctoral thesis is the phylogeny of the limbed vertebrates with special consideration of the origin of lissamphibians and turtles. (Is it turtles all the way down?)

    when you could be translating philosophy.

    As I tried to explain, I couldn’t. All I can do is bitch about how not to do it. See more examples below!

    “Zip up” can be seen to be the mot juste for what Wittgenstein is saying.

    Except that stylistically it’s the opposite of what he’s saying. Schweigen is so formal that it doesn’t occur in colloquial usage at all.

    more than thundering tautology

    I didn’t accuse Wittgenstein of stating tautologies. “The world is all that is the case” is a definition of “world”; it merely serves to explain what “world” means in the rest of the book – and yet, reading it in the original makes one freeze in respect.
    (Frankly, he should have used “reality” instead of “world”. That would have been less confusing. It would, however, also have taken a lot of the thunder away, just because such a definition of “reality” wouldn’t be in the least surprising.)

    Allow me to pump up the volume in accordance with Klingonian principles:

    Submit it to failblog.org before any Klingons find out <shudder>. Wittgenstein doesn’t express any feeble “should” wish, he states a matter of fact: “Everything that can be said at all can be said clearly.” Even more extremely, darüber müßte man schweigen looks like an incomplete sentence: “that’s something one would have to be silent about, if it weren’t the case that X is true, and X is true”. The original simply says “must”. Wittgenstein proclaims simple immutable truths, not conditionals.

    Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train.

    Interesting. But not surprising.

  111. Big Dave: The topic of my ongoing doctoral thesis is the phylogenlissamphibia of turtles, or something like that.
    I must admit they’re very attractive.

  112. DM(Is it turtles all the way down?)
    The creature that looks like Nessie is cute-I’m never sure if these are salt water or fresh water creatures. That one reminds me of a skeleton at the S.D. School of Mines museum. The amphibians are even better, especially the electric blue frog. The one that looks like a night-crawler you can keep, though. I would rather just sit on the bank of a river with a bottle of wine and throw an empty hook in the water.
    Don’t listen to the critics, DM, linguistics isn’t my field either, but there’s nothing wrong with just wanting to play.

  113. David Marjanović says:

    The creature that looks like Nessie is cute

    What do you mean? I didn’t link to any plesiosaur or anything else long-necked. ~:-|

    I’m never sure if these are salt water or fresh water creatures.

    That’s actually often tricky to find out. In most of the literature, all or almost all are automatically assumed to be freshwater-only, because very few lissamphibian species can tolerate even brackish water and people just generalized across all “amphibians” — an unscientific way of doing things when some “amphibians” are more closely related to us (!) than others, and the lissamphibians are more closely related to us than some other “amphibians” are. Now that people start looking at the geology and at the accompanying fauna (instead of making surprising pronouncements that animals otherwise only known from saltwater occurred in freshwater in the Carboniferous), it appears that many such animals were euryhaline (tolerating a wide range of salt content in the water). It also appears that many coal swamps were mangroves; some even think now that salt is necessary for coal formation.

    Don’t listen to the critics

    What critics? :-)

  114. marie-lucie says:

    David knows a lot more about linguistics than some linguists.

  115. What do you mean? I didn’t link to any plesiosaur or anything else long-necked. ~:-|
    Hmm, checking their Nessie Cam it looks they have both long necked and short necked creatures.

  116. David Marjanović says:

    checking their Nessie Cam

    Whose? I still don’t get it.

  117. Did you click the link? You can see the dinsaurs in real time. The museum is in the School of Mines. I think it’s one of the few universities in the country that offers a geology degree. It’s 20 minutes away from the breathtakingly beautiful Black Hills, lots of rocks and fossils there. I had an old BF who went there briefly. He wanted to study oceanography. Don’t ask; it was a short romance.
    I guess the one with the long neck probably looks more like Nessie than the other one. It’s been a long time since I was there, so I don’t remember if they were dug up together or not. I do remember the long neck one was from an ancient lake/ocean that was in the middle of the U.S.

  118. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, do you mean the salamander? (the spotted green creature next to the earthworm and the beautiful blue frog). I don’t see a long Nessie-like neck on it.

  119. No, the Nessie cam link to the sea serpents’ skeletons in my comment at March 30, 2009 10:33 PM

  120. Okay, I’ll do it up nicely. DM’s phylogeny of the limbed vertebrates is |here|; the creature I think of as Nessie is |here|. I think DM is trying to say his creature isn’t much like Nessie because of the neck, but there are two sea creatures’ skeletons here.

  121. The creature in the foreground is identified as a mosasaur, Mosasaurus conodon, found in the “Pierre Shale (Campanian) near the spillway of Elm Lake, Brown County, South Dakota.” [Upper NE corner near Aberdeen] The creature in the background is plesiosaur (Styxosaurus snowii)was initially identified as “Alzadasaurus pembertoni, a new elasmosaur from the Upper Cretaceous of South Dakota” and discovered near Iona, South Dakota.[near the Missouri River near Chamberlain].
    So they were discovered about 400 miles apart, probably in the same shallow lake system, but I’m unsure of the dates, so maybe they were or maybe they weren’t frolicking together.
    This appears to be a portal site for information about the creatures:
    http://www.oceansofkansas.com/SDSMT.html

  122. John Emerson: My mother (Marianne Cowan) died in 1981.

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