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Date: December 1, 2009 2:49 PM
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  1. This is for teaching, mostly.
  2. Dhalgren and Sex by William Wright on Prezi
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  5. Dhalgren Lesson Plans for Teachers

A Fold of Sun. I paid them no mind. Wake up and be a better person! With a little focus I could become everything I ever wished to be: level-headed and buoyed, a real wo man of conviction. What does it matter, if I grind my teeth for the old ladies of Puerto Rico? Or take a knee in the front yard every time I hear the national anthem in my head? Magdalena Zurawski Of Liberation You arrive in a sentence where you would like to stay, but you are told to move on to another, so you do and wish only this time to keep to imaginary places.

You are not given Zanzibar or Timbuktu but Paducah were two soldiers compare figures on a motel balcony.

This is for teaching, mostly.

You note the exits and a sign announcing no free breakfast. Though you had always understood figures differently, you respect their loyalty to a cause impossible to understand. The moon is quartered, and the air is mild. You sleep in a rented bed overlooking asphalt. Through the vents your German professor repeats, "Ich komme aus Dodge. My Life in Politics Incapable of limiting themselves to petty offenses, my hands broke into my chest and choked every slumbering deity. After that I no longer cared to argue about the nature of the flesh. Whether powered by vitalist or mechanical forces, the spirits had in either case evaporated as easily as life from the nostrils of a drowned man.

Oddly, I did begin to care about numbers, but only in exchangeable forms. I collected frozen peas, greeting each one like a lost friend, then dispersing them in green streams to the hungry mouths in the surrounding counties. At home I have an old painting to comfort me, a fine example of Impressionism from the Eastern bloc circa In the subtle oranges singeing the trees one sees the foreshadowing of martial law. As a child sat in my Western living room and watched the Molotov cocktails fly behind the Iron Drape. Back then no one thought to explain to me how walls against the flight of capital might end in flames, how on TV I was witnessing soldiers clip the wings of the very same paper birds that here flew all around me.

Merwin It is the end road of the libertarian and utilitarian ideals professed by the bewigged philosophers of the 18th century and Victorian political thinkers in their frock coats.

Dhalgren and Sex by William Wright on Prezi

Similarly, Murray N. This is the cause of the individual against the world. The cause of the individual. Suspicion of authority. Thanks to the power of advertising, and to the power of an idea whose time has come, the whole country is now moving to the beat of the ghostly drummer who set the rhythm for the flower children and campus radicals of a decade and more ago.

And we are plunged full tilt into decadence.

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The cover depicted a bound and helpless Uncle Sam lying ignominiously on the floor; above him, with one foot on his midriff, stood a beautiful, scantily clad young woman, brandishing a whip. One emerged from reading them with the vague feeling that decadence meant having a good time, or perhaps that it meant looking for thrills, living the life of a libertine, engaging in extravagant self-indulgence.

This is also the feeling about decadence one gets from reading Hougan. Decadence takes place at the extremity of selfindulgence, but it is seldom, if ever, marred by self-importance. Russell Kirk grasps this issue better than most other contemporary commentators, and quite accurately traces the origins of our present period of decadence to the college campus of the early s, where authority first began seriously to decay. That question, although put into words by few students during , lay uncomfortably just below the daily consciousness of many of them.

In every generation, among every people, the young who are about to enter upon independence make some such inquiry. Ordinarily answers are given, whether or not these replies are wholly satisfactory, and the young accept the answers, if grudgingly. Authority is pointed out to them, and in general they submit. Once upon a time, a bishop or a famous preacher had been an authority; an eminent public man or a strong-minded general had been an authority; great books had been authorities; a university president or a confident learned professor had been an authority; a parent had been an authority.

And well they should have. And the more closely the young of the early s examined these authorities, the worse they looked. Not only had they lied us into war; they had lied us into massive expenditures to stamp out a drug menace which had turned out, on examination, to be no menace at all; and they had. Naturally, the young rejected these authorities—rejected them outright. And in so doing, they posed their own revolutionary answer to the questions of why they should believe anything or do anything, and on what authority.

And a generation destined by its elders to become a cohesive society split up into its component individuals. A society ought to be assimilated to an organism. As an organism, in fact, it resolves itself into a federation of lesser organisms, which again resolve themselves into a federation of cells.


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The individual is the social cell. In order that the whole organism should function with energy, it is necessary that the component organisms should function with energy, but with a subordinate energy. And in order that these inferior organisms should themselves function with energy, it is necessary that their component cells should function with energy, but with a subordinate energy.

If the energy of the cells becomes independent, the organisms composing the total organism cease likewise to subordinate their energy to the total energy, and the anarchy which takes place constitutes the decadence of the whole. And the fact is that in every major period of cultural decadence, libertarian ideas—including the idea of anarchy— have been among the most discussed and written about. The period with which the concept of decadence is most commonly associated, the s and the turn-of-the-century or fin de siecle years generally, must surely mark an all time low for the standing of the State among intellectuals and the young.

When he passed through customs on his way into the U. He is said once to have told a disgruntled tax collector that he would not pay his long-delinquent property tax, though he was, as the government alleged, the householder, and did, as the government alleged, live there and sleep there; because, as he explained it, he slept so badly. Every man must be left quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must be exercised over him. If there is, his work will not be good for him, will not be good in itself, and will not be good for others. And by work I simply mean activity of any kind.

There are three kinds of despots. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the body. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul and body alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is called the Pope. The third is called the People. Tucker and published by him in It asserts the dignity of the Individual, not his debasement. And Modern Library editions were then as paperback thrillers are now—they paid the bills for the publisher.

In the eight years Liveright published the Modern Library, it became the financial backbone of his firm and accounted for annual sales of around , books.

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On both sides of the Atlantic, imaginative writers were breaking away from conventional ways of writing fiction and poetry. In New York and in Paris, the writers who would become known as the modernists—Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner—were experimenting with narrative technique, with characterization, even with grammar and syntax themselves. At the time, the writers who were of the new wave, the writers who were the darlings of the media and the young radical contingent of the literary establishment, the writers who were hot, were the writers grouped around H.

Mencken—especially Cabell, Van Vechten and Nathan. The writers who were hot at the time, in effect, were of the mold of Oscar Wilde: iconoclastic, individualistic, satirical, devoted to perfection of style. And it is no accident that a strikingly similar group of writers best represents the literary culture of our own decadent time: Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Barthelme, Tom Wolfe, William H.

Gass, Ken Kesey.

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And if one takes account of the fact as Fairlie does not that the essay is beginning to supplant the novel as the favored prose form for serious literary artists in this culture, then the list of important works of the 70s grows even longer: William H. Like every decadent period before it, it is a period of innovation and high craftsmanship in the arts, and of passionate commitment to ideas in all the intellectual spheres.

When an individual chooses his ideas for himself, judges them for himself, and does with them what he wishes to do with them, he is much more likely to devote himself to ideas with enthusiasm and dedication than when he is forced to rely on an authority to decide for him what is worth studying and what use should be made of it. To be sure, many of the ideas to which individuals devote themselves are false, and lead only to foolishness.

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And in decadent periods, when authorities are in decline and the many feel free to violate their precepts, such false ideas often win large followings. The decay of scientific authority has led to renewed popularity for parapsychology, occult studies, and astrology—in the s, in the s, and in our own era.

The decline of religious authority has led to the formation of thousands of sects and cults—in all three eras. But it is particularly ironic in a period when pacifism is making a comeback to be told that the culture is plunged into civil war.

As Norman Podhoretz has pointed out,. It would be a great mistake to assume that these people, the new isolationists, are all liberals or what is nowadays called liberals. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Podhoretz sees this movement as dangerous. Pacifism and non-interventionism led us to the rise of Nazi Germany, Podhoretz announced, and to the Holocaust and to the War.

Dhalgren Lesson Plans for Teachers

Are we going to learn from that lesson, he asked, or are we not? A telling question, certainly, and one to which another should be added. And might that not have exhausted both totalitarian giants in the process? Bruce M. Not only is the tendency of our decadent culture toward international peace and harmony; it is toward peace and harmony at home as well.

As Friedrich Hayek has argued, it could not be otherwise. It is not decadence, but the authoritarian state, which leads to a war of all against all. It is not the authoritarian state, but decadence, which permits the avid, unmolested pursuit by all of the myriad ideas and ideologies to which they are so passionately committed because they have chosen them themselves.

There is political commitment during periods of decadence too, for all that the detractors of our decade claim otherwise. After the political turmoil of the sixties, Americans have retreated to purely personal preoccupations. On the contrary! A distrust of experts may help to diminish the dependence on experts that has crippled the capacity for self-help.

But they have adjusted their politics slightly from the s, to better take into account the nature of a society which is coming apart. They learned that the system is set up to screw you; that the Right is in on it and the Left is in on it; and that neither of them is to be trusted. They learned that most elections are farces. So they started registering as independents, rather than as Republicans or Democrats. They started staying away from some elections entirely, and voting in others only on the issues, not on the candidates.

In California, Proposition 13 has been overwhelmingly approved, and the Briggs initiative which would have removed homosexual teachers from the public schools has gone down to ignominious defeat—and in each case, voter turnout for the ballot propositions was much higher than for the elective races on the same ballots.

The world has been put on notice that Californians welcome diversity but will not tolerate greedy government.