SUBJECTIVITY, MERLEAU-PONTY, EUROPE/AMERICA, ETC.

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Sat Jul 22 17:10:52 MDT 1995


No, I won't get the vapors over Merleau-Ponty.  In fact, from what
I've heard, he's the one that most interests me; I wish I knew
more about him.  I'm told he's more interesting than Sartre, not
that I've ever been overwhelmingly intrigued by the latter.  I'm a
relative newcomer to this continental stuff.  As far as the books
go, I learned everything I know about subjectivity from Richard
Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin.  I'm as far from
anti-intellectual as you can be, but I want people to present
ideas in a way that I will care about them.  Indeed, these
European theorists are very much a reflection of the social
circumstances that generated them, and you were right about Marx's
appropriation of that German crap, I forget who.  No doubt.  (In
fact, I'm gathering everything I can in English about the Young
Hegelians, and I have friends from Trinidad to the Arabian
peninsula who are hot to trot on Feuerbach and that whole German
scene.)  I find it interesting though that it is people in other
parts of the world that can make the most out of the ideas of
these stale European dead things.  In particular, I find the
German-West Indian connection most fascinating, what people like
CLR James and Wilson Harris did with existentialism, for example.
To take sets of ideas that came from one social frame of reference
and to make them live again touching down on the terrain of a
different pre-reflective cultural landscape in which they can move
about and breathe and quicken -- what profundities there lie
therein.  I think again of my favorite Frenchman, Gaston
Bachelard, inventor of "surrationalism" in the '30s among his
other accomplishments.  When Afro-American U.S. Poet Laureate Rita
Dove gave her two formal addresses at the Library of Congress last
year and this, she took the philosophy of Bachelard as her point
of departure.  Which shows that we are all in modernity together,
and, finally, as Richard Wright said in the final year of his
life, "people need each other."


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