Friday, 6 August 2010

on collaboration

Having read Twyla Tharp's book on creativity, I thought I'd take a look at her newer one on collaboration. Most of it consists of descriptions of various collaborations she's been involved with but she also includes a number of aphorisms about collaboration, two or three per chapter. Here are a few I enjoyed:
  • Uncredited collaborators are often key to successful outcomes.
  • A willingness to try for the unknown can be a strong bond.
  • Collaboration can be internal - an act of listening to others and then having a silent, private conversation with yourself.
  • Letting an audience in on the joke creates a community of collaborators.

archive of (odyssean) exile

I'm beginning to 'get' it, I think - how our material constitutes an 'archive of exile'. The point is that the Odyssey has generated an enormous body of interpretation across time - from the Church Fathers (who see in Odysseus's journey a 'type' of the Christian life) to Lewis Hyde (for whom Odysseus is a manifestation of that disruptive consciousness that he also finds in North American and West African trickster narratives). This great corpus of response is an archive. And, actually, it has a material reality, although it isn't all gathered together in one place. What is more, it is an archive that responds to Odysseus' exile, and this is particularly interesting because it requires a certain effort of reading to make Odysseus into an exile at all. (He does, after all, arrive 'home' at the end of the poem: Clement reads that 'home' as outside this material reality and Hyde sees Odysseus' trickiness as intertwined with his mobility.)

In fact, maybe the archive doesn't constitute the body of responses to the Odyssey in the sense of the Homeric poem. Perhaps it is better to see the Odyssey itself as the first text in the archive - the first one that responds to the myth of Odysseus.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

'gustatory, sexual, and scatalogical'

Just another trickster-fragment! When you were over here last month, we talked about the fact that the allure of the sirens is to do with what they *know* rather than any sexual attraction that they might have. Reading Hyde's book, I begin to think that the two kinds of attraction might usefully be seen as mapping on to each other or being entangled in some way. This passage struck me particuarly:

Earlier I suggested that if trickster were free of all appetite he would no longer be trickster. In a sense, this is a matter of definition; the mythology we're looking at is constantly gustatory, sexual, and scatalogical. It seems to require, then, that we connected trickster's inventive cunning to the body's needs.
I don't quite know how I see this working at the moment - it needs some more thought - but it seems interesting that Odysseus has to restrain his desires physically (by having himself bound to the mast) in order to be rewarded with the knowledge that comes from hearing the sirens' song.

Odysseus and Circe

It's interesting that, after telling Alcinous that the demands of the belly take precedence even over grief, Odysseus says exactly the opposite when he recounts the story of his encounter with Circe. By following the instructions of the trickster-god, Hermes, he has evaded her spells, and she has promised that she will not do him any harm. At this point she offers him food, the language of the passage identifying it closely with other feasts, including the one in Phaeacia. But he says that he cannot eat because he is troubled by the fate of his comrades:

‘ὦ Κίρκη, τίς γάρ κεν ἀνήρ, ὃς ἐναίσιμος εἴη,
πρὶν τλαίη πάσσασθαι ἐδητύος ἠδὲ ποτῆτος,
385πρὶν λύσασθ᾽ ἑτάρους καὶ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ἰδέσθαι;
ἀλλ᾽ εἰ δὴ πρόφρασσα πιεῖν φαγέμεν τε κελεύεις,
λῦσον, ἵν᾽ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ἴδω ἐρίηρας ἑταίρους.’

‘Circe, what man that is right-minded could bring himself to taste of food or drink, ere yet he had won freedom for his comrades, and beheld them before his face? But if thou of a ready heart dost bid me eat and drink, set them free, that mine eyes may behold my trusty comrades.’

I'm not sure this is a 'trick' exactly - he doesn't have to avoid eating her food because Hermes has given him a herb which protects him against Circe's spells. (The Greek term for Hermes' herb is the same one used of Circe's own witchcraft, φάρμακον.) But it does sound very much like the kind of dynamic Hyde is talking about - the mortal who is afflicted with appetite somehow controls that appetite in order to achieve a new level of power.

οὐ γάρ τι ... κύντερον ἄλλο

I've started reading Trickster Makes This World and am about fifty pages in. I'm enjoying it but won't try to post much about it until I've got more of a sense of the overall argument. For the moment, I'll just include a quotation from the Odyssey, which Hyde introduces when he is discussing the idea of 'endless hunger' as the lot of humans. It comes from book VII, when Odysseus has arrived in Phaeacia and is desperate to eat. (I've already written about the feast in Phaeacia here.) Trying to get Alcinous to hurry the banquet along, Odysseus says:

ἀλλ᾽ ἐμὲ μὲν δορπῆσαι ἐάσατε κηδόμενόν περ:
οὐ γάρ τι στυγερῇ ἐπὶ γαστέρι κύντερον ἄλλο
ἔπλετο, ἥ τ᾽ ἐκέλευσεν ἕο μνήσασθαι ἀνάγκῃ
καὶ μάλα τειρόμενον καὶ ἐνὶ φρεσὶ πένθος ἔχοντα,
ὡς καὶ ἐγὼ πένθος μὲν ἔχω φρεσίν, ἡ δὲ μάλ᾽ αἰεὶ
220ἐσθέμεναι κέλεται καὶ πινέμεν, ἐκ δέ με πάντων
ληθάνει ὅσσ᾽ ἔπαθον, καὶ ἐνιπλησθῆναι ἀνώγει.

And Perseus offers the following English translation:

But as for me, suffer me now to eat, despite my grief; for there is nothing more shameless than a hateful belly, which bids a man perforce take thought thereof, be he never so sore distressed and laden with grief at heart, even as I, too, am laden with grief at heart, yet ever does my belly bid me eat and drink, and makes me forget all that I have suffered, and commands me to eat my fill.

Hyde quietly offers a different translation of κύντερον - 'doglike'. (It is the compartive of κύων.)

It seems to me that this might be important - the idea that appetite is a kind of problem for Odysseus and it certainly casts all the banqueting scenes in an interesting light.