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"I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee's life of the poet. She died young--alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to-night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so--I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals--and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton's bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while."

Virginia Woolf. A Room of One's Own, 1929.

Image: Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford, 1902.

#literature #woolf 

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“I, for one, have in mind something less obscure, something more palpable than that; what I am really concerned with is giving you some insight into the relationship of a book collector to his possessions, into collecting rather than a collection. If I do this by elaborating on the various ways of acquiring books, this is something entirely arbitrary. This or any other procedure is merely a dam against the spring tide of memories which surges toward any collector as he contemplates his possessions. Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories. More than that: the chance, the fate, that suffuse the past before my eyes are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books. For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order? You have all heard of people whom the loss of their books has turned into invalids, or of those who in order to acquire them became criminals. These are the very areas in which any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness. 'The only exact knowledge there is,' said Anatole France, 'is the knowledge of the date of publication and the format of books.' And indeed if there is a counterpart to the confusion of a library, it is the order of its catalogue.”

Walter Benjamin, Unpacking My Library, 1931.

Image: Audrey Hepburn at her apartment on Wilshire Boulevard enjoying a snack while reading a book. Mark Shaw, 1953.

#philosophy #benjamin #books #photography #shaw #audreyhepburn

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I try to carry out the most precise and discriminative analyses I can in order to show in what ways things change, are transformed, are displaced. When I study the mechanisms of power, I try to study their specificity... I admit neither the notion of a master nor the universality of his law. On the contrary, I set out to grasp the mechanisms of the effective exercise of power; and I do this because those who are inserted in these relations of power, who are implicated therein, may, through their actions, their resistance, and their rebellion, escape them, transform them—in short, no longer submit to them. And if I do not say what ought to be done, it is not because I believe there is nothing to be done. Quite on the contrary, I think there are a thousand things to be done, to be invented, to be forged, by those who, recognizing the relations of power in which they are implicated, have decided to resist or escape them. From this point of view, my entire research rests upon the postulate of an absolute optimism. I do not undertake my analyses to say: look how things are, you are all trapped. I do not say such things except insofar as I consider this to permit some transformation of things. Everything I do, I do in order that it may be of use.


Quand j’étudie les mécanismes de pouvoir, j’essaie d’étudier leur spécificité… Je n’admets ni la notion de maîtrise ni l’universalité de la loi. Au contraire, je m’attache à saisir des mécanismes d’exercise effectif de pouvoir ; et je le fais parce que ceux qui sont insérés dans ces relations de pouvoir, qui y sont impliqués peuvent, dans leurs actions, dans leur résistance et leur rébellion, leur échapper, les transformer, bref, ne plus être soumis. Et si je ne dis pas ce qu’il faut faire, ce n’est pas parce que je crois qu’il n’y a rien à faire. Bien au contraire, je pense qu’il y a mille choses à faire, à inventer, à forger par ceux qui, reconnaissant les relations de pouvoir dans lesquelles ils sont impliqués, ont décidé de leur résister ou de leur échapper. De ce point de vue, toute ma recherche repose sur un postulat d’optimisme absolu. Je n’effectue pas mes analyses pour dire : voilà comment sont les choses, vous êtes piégés. Je ne dis ces choses que dans la mesure où je considère que cela permet de les transformer. Tout ce que je fais, je le fais pour que cela serve.

Michel Foucault. Dits et Écrits II 1976–1988.

Music: Brett Anderson. "Back to You" (Brett Anderson Live in London, 2007)

Photography by +Rui Palha (Street Moments Series)

#philosophy #foucault #music #anderson #photography #palha #power #rebellion 

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“The enigma derives from the fact that my body simultaneously sees and is seen. That which looks at all things can also look at itself and recognize, in what it sees, the “other side” of its power of looking. It sees itself seeing; it touches itself touching; it is visible and sensitive for itself. It is a self, not by transparency, like thought, which never thinks anything except by assimilating it, constituting it, transforming it into thought—but a self by confusion, narcissism, inherence of the see-er in the seen, the toucher in the touched, the feeler in the felt—a self, then, that is caught up in things, having a front and a back, a past and a future....”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty. L’Œil et l’esprit (Eye and Mind), 1961.

Image: Yesterdays and Tomorrows (Reveries series) by Angela Bacon-Kidwell (

#philosophy #merleauponty #photography #baconkidwell #perception


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A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb “to be,” but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, “and...and...and...” This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb “to be.” Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you heading for? These are totally useless questions. Making a clean slate, starting or beginning again from ground zero, seeking a beginning or a foundation—all imply a false conception of voyage and movement (a conception that is methodical, pedagogical, initiatory, symbolic...). But Kleist, Lenz and Büchner have another way of traveling and moving: proceeding from the middle, through the middle, coming and going rather than starting and finishing.

Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia II, 1980.

Music: Yann Tiersen.  Watching Lara et First rendez-vous (Good Bye Lenin!, 2003).

Image: January, 1953. New York by Vivian Maier.

#philosophy #deleuze #guattari #music #piano #tiersen #photography #maier

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"Then the snow began to fall so fast that the boy could not see his hands in front of him, as they sped on. He suddenly let go the slack of the rope in his hands, in order so get loose from the big sleigh, but it did no good. His little sled was tied on securely, and they went like the wind. He gave a loud shout, but nobody heard him. The snow whirled and the sleigh flew along. Every now and then it gave a jump, as if it were clearing hedges and ditches. The boy was terror-stricken. He tried to say his prayers, but all he could remember was his multiplication tables.

The snowflakes got bigger and bigger, until they looked like big white hens. All of a sudden the curtain of snow parted, and the big sleigh stopped and the driver stood up. The fur coat and the cap were made of snow, and it was a woman, tall and slender and blinding white-she was the Snow Queen herself."

Hans Christian Andersen. “The Snow Queen” in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Second Collection, 1845.

Image: Robert Doisneau. Il neige au studio, Paris, 1951.

#literature #andersen #fairytales #photography #doisneau #snow

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Awakening to see the world in a new and powerful way has been one of philosophy’s promises for a very long time. Beauvoir, Bakewell tells us, "had a kind of genius for being amazed by the world and by herself." Maurice Merleau-Ponty, another hero of At the Existentialist Café, saw that "the philosopher’s task is neither to reduce the mysterious to a neat set of concepts nor to gaze at it in awed silence." With what Bakewell describes as a noble devotion to evidence and to ambiguity, Merleau-Ponty sought to rigorously put into words what is often considered inexpressible.

Bakewell’s existentialists at their best are much like her Montaigne: full of wonder and curiosity with a high tolerance for uncertainty. Her account is acutely relevant to our own age of technology, conformity, and surveillance. Although At the Existentialist Café is not a book aimed at university audiences, there is surely a lesson here for those of us who teach philosophy in academic settings. Rather than succumb to the quest for sophisticated purification, as Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle recently described the professionalization of the discipline in a New York Times blog, we should instead acknowledge our students’ hunger for meaning and political engagement, stimulate their curiosity about freedom, and amplify their capacity for wonder. When we try to do so, we may find, as did Sarah Bakewell, that "we need the existentialists more than we thought."

Michael S. Roth.  Review of Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails. In Chronicle of Higher Education, March 18, 2016.

Image:  Chair in the Tuileries by Brassaï, 1931-32.

#philosophy #existentialism #roth #bakewell #photography #brassaï

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What is essential in the revolutionary is not that he overturns as such; it is rather that is overturning he brings to light what is decisive and essential.

Martin Heidegger. Nietzsche, 1961.

Poetry has always been able to utter the will of free will, coming back to the memory of words and extracting its sense and time. In periods that we vaguely sense to be in decline or at least in suspension, questioning remains the only possible thought: an indication of life that is simply alive.


Faced with the invasion of the spectacle, we can still contemplate the rebellious potentialities that the imaginary might resuscitate in our innermost depths. It is not a time of great works, or perhaps, for us, contemporaries, they remain invisible. Nevertheless, by keeping our intimacy in revolt we can preserve the possibility of their appearance.

Julia Kristeva. Intimate Revolt, 2002.

Image: “Road’s End. To Photograph Is To Frame And To Frame Is To Exclude” by Reinfried Marass (

#philosophy #heidegger #nietzsche #psychoanalysis #kristeva #photography #marass

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We shall better understand the nature of this reshaping operation as it applies to the past, and perhaps also to dreamlike states, if we do not forget that even at the moment of reproducing the past our imagination remains under the influence of the present social milieu. In a way, contemplative memory or dreamlike memory helps us to escape society. It is one of the rare moments when we succeed in isolating ourselves completely, since our memories, especially the earliest ones, are indeed our memories: those who might read them in us as well as we read them ourselves have either vanished or been dispersed. Yet, if we flee in this way from the society of the people of today, this is in order to find ourselves among other human beings and in another human milieu, since our past in inhabited by the figures of those we used to know. In this sense, one can escape from a society only by opposing to it another society...

Maurice Halbwachs. La mémoire collective (On Collective Memory), 1950.

Image: Memories of two (Traveling Dream series) by Angela Bacon-Kidwell (

#sociology #halbwachs #photography #baconkidwell #memories

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Von Wright says of thinkers like Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, who in the course of the nineteenth century had clearly distanced themselves from the idea or the myth of progress: The mood of these writers is not necessarily pessimistic. But it is a sombre mood of self-reflexion and questioning of dominant currents of their time, as they saw them. And these writers, we know, were more congenial to Wittgenstein than any nineteenth-century philosopher of the established style. From his early years he distanced himself from and condemned modernity in all its philistine manifestations.


I would like to end this account with two remarks. The first has to do with the question of determining what name we can use to designate the phase we are now in. Are we better off speaking of ‘postmodernity’ or, as von Wright suggests, of ‘late modernity’? I have elsewhere explained my position at length on what to think of and on what to expect most probably from postmodernity; and, like von Wright, I think there is not much of a connection between the attitude of the most typical postmodernists and thinkers like Kraus or Wittgenstein. The essential reason for this is that postmodernism is a doctrine which remains fundamentally optimistic and that does no questioning of the necessity, if not to progress, at least to move forward. I once even proposed defining it as the conception according to which we know less than ever where we are going, and we should above all not try to find out, but in any case we know it is important to get there as fast as possible.

This looks exactly, or at least far too much, like what indeed ended up being the imperative of modernity itself. Von Wright notes: ‘if Late Modernity is predominantly a sombre mood, the undercurrent in it which calls itself post-modern is predominantly hopeful. It sees modernity as something essentially overcome, transcended, and in post-modernity a beginning and a promise of a renewal in culture and forms of life’. Von Wright adds that ‘a sceptic may prefer to see in the post-modern phenomena symptoms of the malaise of modernity rather than a cure for it’, and that is how he himself is inclined to see them. That is also exactly what I think as characteristics of postmodernity, perceived them, as far as he was concerned, not as signs that we are entering into a new era, but as symptoms of the hesitations and contradictions in which modernity itself has already been caught for some time, and which it cannot escape.

Jacques Bouveresse. "Le Mythe du progrès selon Wittgenstein et von Wright" (Wittgenstein, von Wright and the Myth of Progress). Institut Finlandais, Paris, 5-6 October 2001. Translated by Francie Crebs and revised by James Helgeson

Image: Last Roses by Josef Sudek, 1956.

#philosophy #wittgenstein #vonwright #kraus #musil #vienna #progress #photography #sudek #roses #rain
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