Delphic Dictums

Bruegel's Babel

I graduated for the third time last weekend, and can now string M.A. at the end of any signature I scrawl. There is no vivid sensation that goes along with this accomplishment, only a barely perceptible feeling of being out-of-focus. I have thus taken to reading titles which have accumulated a thin layer of dust while resting on my Read-Soon bookshelf, exercising to rid myself of the thin layer of beach-hostile padding which accumulated while I was immersed in study, and writing in this blog I would love to update more often.

In that spirit, here are some favorite passages of mine, both skim the surface of an idea that has long been buzzing about: the masks or identities we don so unconsciously. I have found this idea most clearly defined after reading through Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco), finishing Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, and speaking with a friend about storytelling and life. I'm working on an entry regarding the penchant among scholars for "guilt" fiction like detective novels, and how it relates (how does it relate?) to masks and appearance, Art, and the way one lives.

But none of the feelings which the joys or misfortunes of a 'real' person awaken in us can be awakened except through a mental picture of those joys or misfortunes; and the ingenuity of the first novelist lay in his understanding that, as the picture was the one essential element in the complicated structure of our emotions, so that simplification of it which consisted in the suppression, pure and simple, of 'real' people would be a decided improvement. A 'real' person, profoundly as we may sympathize with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, he remains opaque, offers a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to lift.
Proust, Swann's Way


Durer's Adam and Eve


And here is Madame Merle out of Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James:

'When you've lived as long as I you'll see that every human being has his shell and that you must take shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of circumstances. There's no such thing as an isolated man or woman; we're each of us made up of some cluster of appurtenances. What shall we call our 'self'? Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us--and then it flows back again. I know a large part of myself is in the clothes I choose to wear. I've a great respect for THINGS! One's self--for other people--is one's expression of one's self; and one's house, one's furniture, one's garments, the books one reads, the company one keeps--these things are all expressive.'