James Kincaid gave a brilliant kaleidoscopic talk at school on Tuesday. My head is still swirling with it - he did that wondrous academic thing I love, of taking a number of textual examples and ideas that seem mostly unrelated, throwing them together into a big pot, then letting them marinate with brilliance and insight until, finally, there's some kind of stew of genius.
I'm still thinking it all over, and suspecting I missed more than a few crucial pieces of information (listening to the mostly-faculty audience loudly singing "Big Rock Candy Mountains" overrode most of my other intellectual capabilities), but I want to note one thing that leapt out at me.
Kincaid quotes Walter Pater, a man whose work is mostly unfamiliar to me, except for the brief snippets I skimmed in my history & theory of criticism class ages ago. My ignorance about Pater is one of the newest bits of solid evidence suggesting that I really am not, in fact, a Victorianist at all. But never mind that academic identity crisis.
The Pater that was quoted, and discussed, is from the conclusion to his Renaissance book, where Pater writes that "not the fruits of the experience, but the experience itself" is what is important.
He's saying - foreshadowing, setting up, whatever - what Kerouac writes in the beginning of On the Road - that the way to live is to burn burn burn like a Roman candle.
That what you take away from an experience - the fruits - isn't the point; it's the experience itself.
This makes me think of my Kids These Days...angst, which is really about people and technology, and the problem of constant documentation of things, rather than engaging in things themselves.
and a million other things, also arising from both Pater and Kincaid's talk.
But those are for another time when my brain is less fogged from grading, a head cold that won't leave, and sleepiness.