August 26, 2017 (Saturday)

by Yule Heibel on August 25, 2018

I saw Claire Lehman’s tweet about Donna Zuckerberg (yes, Mark’s sister) and the latter’s take on the “fascist” roots of classics as a discipline. Lehman of course goes after it – and I bit, quoting her in a retweet. Everything is just so much bullshit everywhere. It’s depressing to see stupidity taking over in every area. As someone on Lehman’s very long comments thread noted, it might not be exactly right that Donna Zuckerberg meant that the classics are inherently authoritarian, but that (traditional) classics scholars are inherently more “tolerant” of authoritarianism. Yet even if that’s what she meant, though, is this even relevant to “classics”? Oh, but with that question I’m being an essentialist, someone who fails to understand that everything is instrumentalized according to someone’s agenda. Except, I know about the instrumentalistic usage of culture – I recognize it. But – because you may not fall into the trap of making it essentialist – you can only employ the instrumentalism critique in very specific instances, not in the general sense.

It seems critiques like Donna Zuckerberg’s want to make the instrumentalist critique general – and so in a very real way, she and her tribe are the essentialists. What was it Adorno said? You have to differentiate. You have to differentiate. You have to differentiate. People don’t want to do that. It’s like they want a Swiss Army knife concept – useful in every instance. Until it’s not.

We watched an interesting and fun movie last night: “The Last Word,” with Shirley Maclaine and Amanda Seyfried. (trailer) I could really relate to Maclaine’s character’s concern with legacy, and of course some self-help books recommend you write your obituary as a way of seeing where you want to go, what you want to achieve.

(An aside, re. yesterday’s entry: once you stop engaging with a topic area, you not only lose interest but also – it seems – knowledge. It’s hard for me to connect with the fact that I could once upon a time teach all of Western art from the Renaissance to the end of the twentieth-century. Then, you start to think of yourself as stupid, or stunted. Pruned, in all the wrong ways…)

So, Maclaine’s character wants a proper legacy, which of course ends up being about meaningfulness and purpose and letting one’s genius shine through. Seyfried’s character has a deeper ambition than being a “mere” obituary writer. When pressed, she finally blurts out that her journaling, which she calls essays, is about desire. That perked my ears.

Yet, Maclaine’s character derides this and tells Seyfried’s that she’s still at the juvenile, immature phase, that it’s a girl speaking (writing), and that it’s time to find the woman. I wonder if that bit was too telescoped, because surely women deal with the desire question as much as girls. What was the drive for a legacy if not a desire?

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