There are, indeed, but very few who know how to be idle and innocent, or have a Relish of any Pleasures that are not Criminal; every Diversion they take is at the Expence of some one Virtue or another, and their very first Step out of Business is into Vice or Folly. A Man should endeavour, therefore, to make the Sphere of his innocent Pleasures as wide as possible, that he may retire into them with Safety, and find in them such a Satisfaction as a wise Man would not blush to take.
Neither a survey of contemporary practice, nor a conference report, this 'plenary' is a petri dish of ideas occasioned by the 2015 convening of ASLE ( limited by my own ability to digest the conference offerings). The conference presentations of these participants, together, suggested to me a common set of gestures.
In “Gentle Now, Don't Add to Heartache,” Juliana Spahr offers a narrative of the displacement of human imagination defined by creaturely and vegetal affiliation and transelemental immersion in the natural world. Lists of nonhuman species imply an abundant, connective world, and these same are beseeched not to “add to heartache,” prior to their replacement by chemical-industrial products later in the poem. “We come into the world / and there it is” – the poem’s opening lines prompt.
As I noted at the start of my stint here in “Commentary,” when I was assigned to teach 18th century and Romantic aesthetics this past spring, I found the task daunting. Why teach the ideas of these dead white men at a time when the news every night talked about the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police? As my class and I rehearsed the ideas of Edmund Burke, though, I began to see that one argument for reading aesthetics is to understand the long history of white supremacy’s rhetoric and how it has infiltrated our everyday thought and speech.
for Joseph Castronovo & Edward S. Klima, in memoriam
[The great breakthrough resulting from a new signing poetry in Deaf Culture has been to call into question a poetics in which orality & sounding are assumed to be the foundational bases of all poetic expression. That revelation goes back three decades & more, recently & notably presented in Signing the Body Poetic: Essays on American Sign Language Literature, ed. by Dirksen L. Bauman, Jennifer L. Nelson, & Heidi M. Rose (University of California Press, 2006).