Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simpático with Peace Through Fiction - more quotes from A Scream Goes Through the House by Arnold Weinstein (post #5)

Quotes from Chapter Four, "Plague and Human Connection," of A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life by Arnold Weinstein..."a book about the power of literature to heal and interact with our experiences" and simpático in spirit with Peace Through Fiction.

"What interests me in this chapter is the amazing scope of what I want to call the plague-text: a story of epidemiological disease, a story of mysterious transmission, a story of community responses and resources, and—last but not least—an individualist story of initially concealed and finally exposed secrets, secrets of moral transgression and taboo." (p213)

"Plague-texts are about more than bacterial transmission: they are about the deeper riddles of human connection and social fears...[and] explore the ramifications of physical, emotional, sexual, and political interactions." (p215)

"These matters can be figurative as well as literal. It would be possible to devote this entire chapter to the metaphor of infection as it is used to connote the reach of human interactions, the reality of 'human transmission.' Is it accidental that Shakespeare repeatedly images lying in terms of poison in the ear?" (p216)

"And why limit these toxic transactions to speech? Why not consider the images we see, the music we hear, all of the cultural sights, notations, formulas, and assumptions that come our way via family and society? Don't all of them invade us, in some unseen, unseeable sort of way?" (p217)

Regarding Charles Dickens: "In Bleak House (which I take to be the author's supreme work) plague comes packaged in its more modern and invisible form: the off-limits slums and ghettos where disease flourishes." (p243)

"We are all familiar with the idle question, what book would you want if you were a castaway on a desert island? But what about its opposite number, what would you read if plague or nuclear war struck?" (p.258)

"Angels in America is indeed a visionary text about the millennium. Tony Kushner makes us see that the plague theme reveals the absolute centrality of the body in all human affairs: love, death, politics. Plague leads to an encounter with otherness: with another form of sexual behavior, with a new set of family alignments, with a radical reconception of individual identity...But the old does not disappear: love and loyalty remain as a kind of human syntax that nothing can disrupt." (pp287-288)

Arnold Weinstein links ~
Arnold L. Weinstein, Brown University Research
Arnold Weinstein, Brown University, Department of Comparative Literature

Book discussion ~
Join the discussion at Twitter Readers Bookclub

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