This blog is an attempt at mooring, at grounding. By day, I am a grad student hard at work at understanding medieval Chinese literature. The majority of authors I study have been dead for over a thousand years, and the amount of people in the United States who read these authors does not exceed the same number. To put this in perspective, that’s less than one tenth of the population of the township of Bainbridge, Ohio (10,916), in which I spent the first portion of my life.
Thus, I need something to attach me to the world which surrounds me, the culture of the U.S.A. Only he whose home is the present can confidently plunder the past. Wandering is romanticized homelessness, and writing, sublimated unemployment. A connection to the present, a moment of fixity, is the first purpose of this blog.
But this blog is also an attempt at unmooring, at departure. The present culture which surrounds us is not to be taken lightly. Ideology, like paranoia, lurks in every corner, and he who moves not is a statue. The only resistance to reification (fuller explanationhere) is critical appreciation.
And so, I intend to take parts of American culture as points of departure, objects to muse on, which will lead to larger issues. As John Milton wrote in his Areopagitica:
Good and evill we know in the field of this World grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involv’d and interwoven with the knowledge of evill, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discern’d, that those confused seeds which were impos’d on Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out, and sort asunder, were not more intermixt.
Or, to put it in Neo-Calvinist terms, there are moments of creation, fall, and redemption in all things, and it our task to discern which from which. Or, to put it in Hegelian-Marxist terms, “Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology.”
To this end, I will write reflections at irregular intervals on various cultural objects and phenomena, touching anything I happen to engage with, from my areas of specialization (classical Chinese poetry and translation) to those far afield (contemporary television, modernist art, Christian theology).
[This post originally appeared in modified form on another blog I attempted to start but failed to get going.]