Abstract

Seeing and not-seeing suggest a confusion between seeing metaphorically and seeing literally.  This confusion manifests in writings about poetical/critical seeing either in the mind’s eye or in the real eye.  As epistemological questions circle around the senses in the wake of empiricism the concept of seeing literally becomes more important and the metaphorics of blindness more complicated.

By examining the blind man in an age when the evidence of the senses, particularly sight, increases in importance, one finds a radical shift in ideology. The blind man, as an empirical specimen rather than a potential site for divine inspiration, deprives the Platonic ideal of meaning.  In his blindness, and in the way in which he is read through the eighteenth century, Milton represents both the poet/prophet and the specimen of empirical inquiry.

For certain early modern critics, such as Addison, the way to understand art and society is through the senses.  However, by the middle of the eighteenth century, Burke turns again to the blind man and says something quite different than had been said before.  He will empty vision of empirical sight, and he will cite real blind men as evidence for the possibility of describing the visible world without the means of sight.  For Burke the vastness of augmented sight – microscopic and telescopic – suggest the sublime, but for others particularly Swift and Pope, the microscopic eye suggests a kind of too-much of seeing that is not unrelated to blindness itself.  Lastly, I consider Samuel Johnson and his forty-year friendship with the blind lady Anna Williams, which at times suggests that his existential fears of death and doubts regarding Christianity are intimately bound up with the weightiest metaphorics of blindness.

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The Star of Happiness Has Five Minutes to Shine

I’ve known people who have done fringe festivals over the past couple of years, but it was fairly recent that I found out that the fringe selection process is usually very egalitarian.  The majority of participants are allowed in via a lottery system or a first come first served basis or some combination of the two.  Applying to FRIGID new York is my first experience with this whole process and I’ve gotten a little glimpse of how it works

Frigid new York takes place in late winter, but the applications were due on Labor Day at midnight.  The first fifteen slots went in a record 6 seconds!  Although I had had my application ready to go for hours, I was somehow late to push the submit button (duh), and alas was forced to wait for another couple of months for the lottery.  The lottery was held on Halloween at Under St. Mark’s, the theater where I hope to perform The Star of Happiness, where the hard rockin/drinkin story telling madness that is the BTK Band somewhat alleviated the sadness of not having my name picked out of the hat.

Because there were so many disappointed friends of Horse Trade, they decided to invite three would be FRIGID shows to the miniFRIDGE.  Well, the irony is that if you ended up like me (and a lot of scary worthy people did), then suddenly all the luck is taken out of the equation, and we’re left with good old-fashioned competition.

On December 22, each of us miniFRIDGE hopefuls/FRIGID Fest losers will have five precious minutes to convince the audience to vote for our show and thereby win one of the three coveted miniFRIDGE spots. This will be a great event no matter what – details to come!

For more info on FRIGID new York: frigidnewyork.info/

And for all things wonderful at Horse Trade (including the insane BTK Band): horsetrade.info/

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apostrophe

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The Helen Keller project genesis

By consulting my journal, I find that I mention Helen Keller on Vaudeville for the first time on February 4 2009, nearly two years ago.  Sad.  Sometimes it takes me so long to get things going that it almost doesn’t matter by the time I do.  Furthermore, I’m not proud of the fact that the mention of it is tucked amongst a bunch of bullshit about a dubious relationship and struggles with self-doubt. Typical.  Yes, very but strange nonetheless since the previous month (Jan 09) had marked the official completion date of my PhD.  this is of course one of the great accomplishments of my life – perhaps the greatest – but the excitement I should have felt was shadowed by the more palpable sense of relief.  It had taken so fucking long that it was more of a “phew.” Than a “woohoo!”  The mountain of years of work and not-work, doubt and disgust loomed large behind me and a great yawning pit of “what the hell am I gonna do now?” stretched out ahead, and so this pretty cool thing passed by almost without reflection.  The “pretty cool thing” being the day I, a mere grad student, entered a room with five professors to defend my dissertation and, when I emerged, they squeezed my hand, gave me hugs and were the first to call me “doctor”!  This alas did not even make it into my journal, though I do remember getting thoroughly drunk afterward.  Crazy right? After a million years as a student (my mother told me to stay in school, so I did!), I was finally done, culminating in my big fat English PhD (pronounced phud by my father), and I didn’t even mention the event in my journal.  I mean I fretted about it in just about every entry leading up to it for years, and congratulated myself for doing it in many entries since, but I did not take the time to detail the ordeal when it happened.  If I write anything about the experience of that day here, it is from memory, and memory is not reliable.  This is why I keep a journal.  It is very difficult to write about something in the past without coloring it with the knowledge of what came after.  Impossible more likely.  But what does it matter?  This is not about me being a doctor of philosophy, but about my relationship with the Helen Keller project.

If I tell you that my only post-doc plans were to host a monthly variety show called “the doctor michelle party show”, it might help you to understand why I pounced on the Helen Keller on vaudeville like a dog, and have worried it ever since.  “Helen Keller on vaudeville??!”  I started researching it and performing it almost immediately!  But alas, I am nothing if not inconstant, and so I have not been diligent, either with the performance or the research.  Hence, the blog. I hereby commit myself to this project till death do us part…

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