stereotypes (and orthodoxy)

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Thu May 31 10:32:37 PDT 2001

Christopher Rhoades Dÿkema wrote:
> Didn't you find it at least a little liberating to read Lukács' "What is
> Orthodox Marxism"?
> Christopher Rhoades Dÿkema

I posted several days ago the most cogent comment ever written on "heterodoxy" and "originality":

When first young _Maro_* in his boundless Mind

A work t'outlast Immortal _Rome_ design'd,

Perhaps he seem'd _above_ the Critick's Law,

And but from _Nature's Fountains_ scorn'd to draw:

But when t'examine ev'ry Part he came,

_Nature_ and _Homer_ were, he found, the _same_

Convinc'd, amaz'd, he checks the bold Design,

And Rules as strict his labour'd Work confine,

As if the _Stagyrite_^ o'erlooked each Line.

Learn hence for Ancient _Rules_ a just Esteem;

To copy _Nature_~ is to copy _Them_.

(*Virgil; ^Aristotle; ~Reality)

(A. Pope, _Essay on Criticism_, 130-140)

Most attempts at 'originality,' it seems, richly fulfill a later description in the same source:

Whatever Nature has in _Worth_ deny'd,

She gives in large Recruits of _needful Pride_;

For as in _Bodies_, thus in _Souls_, we find

What wants in _Blood_ and _Spirits_, swell'd with _Wind_;

Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our Defence,

And fills up all the _mighty Void of Sense_!

(E.on C., 205-210)

I would guess (I don't know any exceptions off hand) that the whole corpus of LBO-Talk posts are well described by Samuel Johnson's famous review line (quoted from memory): "This book has much that is new and much that is true, but that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true." I would add, however, that Johnson's remark need not be felt as a negative criticism in all instances, especially if "so well expressed" in my next citation from Pope be defined in terms of context -- of how well in terms of the needs of a specific context a point is expressed, in which case there are many instances of _true_ originality (_Wit_ in Pope's language) on this list:

_True Wit_ is _Nature_ to Advantage drest,

What oft was _Thought_, but ne'er so well _Exprest_ . . .


And on party line. The predominant party line seems to be competition in who can most mock the largest number of the people trying to get along as best as they can in the U.S. of today. We may not be able to bring down the Empire but we sure as hell are death on bad grammar and big cars.

The OED failed me on "Line." There are nine full columns, and I don't have the patience to wade through them for illumination. The earliest use of "line" with which I am acquainted is Lenin's in WITBD, where it is an explicit image of the _bricklayer's line_: if people are cooperating on a task they need to coordinate their work. I guess the original geniuses on this list would only have contempt for the banal conformity of bricklayers.

Anyhow, I'd rather be right than be bright.


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