14 December 2012

"you can compare much of my [writing] to the intricate illuminations"

"Since Ulysses was by that time published, Joyce was embarking on Finnegans Wake and plotting out its systems. The Book of Kells would remain an abiding influence on his work; he would refer to one of its pages explicitly in his new novel. When his friend Arthur Power needed advice about how to write, Joyce suggested that he study The Book of Kells. "In all the places I have been to," he wrote, "Rome, Zurich, Trieste, I have taken it about with me, and have pored over its workmanship for hours. It is the most purely Irish thing we have, and some of the big initial letters which swing right across a page have the essential quality of a chapter of Ulysses. Indeed, you can compare much of my work to the intricate illuminations."' - in the Guardian

The beginning of The Gospel according to Mark from The Book of Kells
via the Guardian and Trinity College.
Where in the American "Common Core," or in Michael Gove's reductionist ebacc, is the space for linking an illuminated initial to a literary chapter? Where is the ability to delve into the page shown above? Where is the frenetic joy of playing with language that might be found in Finnegan's Wake?
Tolv two elf kater ten (it can’t be) sax.
Pedwar pemp foify tray (it must be) twelve.
And low stole o’er the stillness the heartbeats of sleep.
White fogbow spans. The arch embattled. Mark as capsules. The nose of the man who was nought like the nasoes. It is self tinted, wrinkling, ruddled. His kep is a gorsecone. He am Gascon Titubante of Tegmine — sub — Fagi whose fixtures are mobiling so wobiling befear my remembrandts. She, exhibit next, his Anastashie. She has prayings in lowdelph. Zeehere green egg-brooms. What named blautoothdmand is yon who stares? Gu — gurtha! Gugurtha! He has becco of wild hindigan. Ho, he hath hornhide! And hvis now is for you. Pens‚e! The most beautiful of woman of the veilch veilchen veilde. She would kidds to my voult of my palace, with obscidian luppas, her aal in her dhove’s suckling. Apagemonite! Come not nere! Black! Switch out !
Where is the art of creating the wholly new? Or in understanding that which neither your teacher, nor your state legislature (nor Michael Gove, nor Pearson) is familiar with?

Where is the argument over Chris Marker's choices in his 1962 La jetée?

or deep debate on the art of manipulation in political advertisement?

or outright lies?
Who trains the next generation of Emile Zolas?
Literacy is about a lot more than consumption, review, summarization, comparison. Literacy is about the ability to see the whole world in depth.

Do not sell our kids short.

- Ira Socol

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