/ Scholarship /
When I was in school the word “romance” had two distinct meanings. There was the trivial meaning that everyone knew and most people meant, unaware that there was anything else to mean: boy and girl. Hollywood: it’s a romance: it’s about mating, pairing … procreation: it’s about social units, about the church prescribing-and-proscribing behavior … It was what girls meant.
Then there was the philosophical, scholarly meaning (set of meanings): revolutionary, evolutionary: daring, innovative, avant-garde … Within that second meaning (set of meanings) resided formal meanings: in art: music, literature … thought: style dominant in specific historical periods: Baroque, Classical, Romantic … Wordsworth, Byron, Keats … (and spreading, fore and aft): “Rousseau in his philosophy was a Romantic” …
These distinctions have aways had some importance for me (not that it’s done any good: people are addicted to their own meanings and misunderstandings, they don’t care much about yours, don’t care how they misjudge, misrepresent … the led and mislead pretending they’re leaders. Schools force sloppy habits by sabotaging, impoverishing the teachers: Pilat heads the class while the Savior is on the cross, no longer able to even try to speak. People get Gates & Jobs, not even knowing they’d been offered Illich & Knatz: manipulated-market media controlling the absences of information). The distinctions have the more immediate importance for me as (as a few recent posts illustrate) Jan and I are steeping ourselves in opera: I was once a glib modern: I liked (Bach and) jazz and Stravinsky; I did Not want to hear Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. (Romntics, you see.) In opera I made an exception for Mozart; I did Not want to accept Verdi, Bellini, Puccini … Then I was a glib Elizabethan: I loved John Donne, I wanted to know and love Shakespeare as well as I knew Donne; I did Not want to spend brain power on Wordswoorth or Keats … (And the Eighteenth Century? Forged-about-it!)
All that changed when Phil persuaded me that we should become teachers: get the PhD-union-card, find a small college in some sticks to hide out in … Grad school demanded familiarity with literature from a wider band of history than my taste (and limited development) favored. I plunged into correction mode by taking six points of Byron! six points! I went from knowing nearly no Byron to knowing All the damn poems, a half dozen of the plays, a few hundred of the letters (and so damn much of the bio) … and loveLoveLOVING Don Juan … Romance! Romantic. Overnight I went from anti-Romantic to steeped in Romance. (Began to see how biased as well as ignorant I’d been.) (Still am, as are we all.)
Byron in Albanian dress
Byron was a British lord: titled, privileged (though not from birth), who lived with a countess in Venice, shoved her husband, the count, upstairs onto the top floor, cohabited the main floors unto himself and the countess, and relegated her brother, the would-be terrorist, to the basement (where he stockpiled bombs to blow up the aristocracy!) Byron plotted against the British Empire, against tyrannical monarchy. from some very funny places. Romantic. Romance!
And it sure is funny to think of my adulthood the way my adulthood once reviewed my adolescence:
|Girls!||Yich!||Har har har.|
La Boheme! These guys are talking about art! They talking about society! about tragedy! injustice! what constitutes value? Then, all at once, up the stairs, the female bears the miasma of her femaleness, and then it’s just Girls, girls, girls. It’s really very funny. Romance.
Classical is like marching in formation; Romance is like getting drunk and not remembering your own name.