Monday, June 27, 2011

Genius 2

Bloom on Shakespeare with some thoughts on Freud, change, and the invention of the human ...
  • "... the largest consciousness and most incisive intellect in all literature"
  • "Hamlet, Falstaff, Lear, Iago, Cleopatra, Rosalind, and Macbeth ... [Shakepeare] fashioned women and men more real than living men and women."
His language, his transcendently, preternaturally real characters, his equal brilliance in comedy and tragedy, his craft and density such that his plays (really) are to be read - all of these are signs of genius. But, according to Bloom, his essential, world-changing contribution was his 'invention of the human'. And how does that happen? By self-overhearing.
  • "Where do our selves begin? ... Shakespeare, incomparable psychologist, invented a new origin for us in the most illuminating idea any poet ever has discovered or invented: the self-recognition of self-overhearing."
  • "... at moments we overhear ourselves and are startled. Do we awaken into a new self-awareness ...?"
  • "It is not clear to me that anyone in Shakespeare really listens to anyone else. ... Self-overhearing, in Shakespeare, is the royal road to change. Hamlet notoriously changes every time he hears himself speak [in his seven soliloquies]. ... Hamlet's self-re-creations through self-overhearing are everywhere in the play ... "
  • "To overhear oneself is to be initially unaware that one is the speaker. That unawareness is so brief that self-overhearing seems more metaphoric than not, yet the moment of literal nonrecognition is authentic. Shakespeare ... seizes upon that moment to fashion another version of the human will to change. ... To hear yourself, at least for an instant, without self-recognition, is to open your spirit to the tempests of change ... This is a new inwardness that creates rather than confronts change."
And since Freud is still following me around, then it's worth making the obvious connection that what happens in dreams and in free association is a particularly powerful form of "self-overhearing". What I have yet to clarify is the relation between these and two sorts of prayer, namely, (1) the praying of Scripture until such time as we can hear a) that Scripture's note and our inner note are discordant OR b) that they are in harmony OR c) that they are identical; and (2) whatever sort of prayer it was (something between free association and Brother Lawrence) that filled Jesus's whole nights of prayer.

This self-overhearing, therefore, takes place:

1. when I speak to myself (soliloquy)
2. when one part of me speaks to another part of me (dream)
3. when I speak to another (prayer)
4. when I speak to myself in the presence of another (free association)


5. when another speaks to me.

How can this be? How can listening to another be a form of self-overhearing? Actually, it's the simple moment of reading C S Lewis and thinking, "I have always thought that and felt like that but until reading those words I didn't know it". Or the simple moment of hearing the preacher say, "and you know how it is when you think / feel / react / wish ..." and finish the sentence in a way which makes you feel he's been inside your head and heart.

More theologically, "the invention of the human" is, of course, the outcome of the most potent "self-overhearing" of them all: when the Father speaks the Word and hears himself (recognises the exact representation of his being) then this leads to the "change" of bringing all creation into being with humankind, shaped by the mold of the flesh that the Word will one day become, perfectly "in his own image and likeness".

That is, the invention of the human, biblically, is the work of the Spirit as he makes an echo of the Word spoken by the Father which the Father overhears and chooses to repeat.