The experience of history exalts and enlarges the horizon of our intellectual view.
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The experience of history exalts and enlarges the horizon of our intellectual view.

-Trevor Roper

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I don't believe that the Scots were always frugal, now that I have read our mean history. Once the land was without mankind and was covered with trees - most of these heaths and moors are modern - and heather grows on the moor because the peasants snapped the limbs they could reach from the trees as high as they could reach, which slowed the growth of the trees, and their pigs rooted up saplings in the forest, and with branches beyond reach men chopped down the trees, trees that had leeched the shallow soil but at least held it with their roots, so that with fewer trees the rains carried off the thin layer of soil, trees became more scarce, winds blew wilder, dry land grew drier and wet land grew more wet, as one peasant here and another peasant there, gathering infinitesimal sticks for paltry winter fires, first raised the trees into the shapes of trees in a medieval hunting scene, and a courtier or if you will a laird might ride horseback through the forest, which looked as cultivated as he did, and he might hunt stags or roes visible among the visible trunks of allegorical trees, as allegory to us was naturalism to them, but their trim and vertical forests quickly deforested to vacant heath and moor, sheep and cattle grazing, nothing much taller than heather, and stone cottages built, a small dairy, smoke curling from chimneys in the morning, thick blue-grey ascending into blue, the old landshape become a landscape, and stones shaped into walls that curved with hilly fields, poisonously quaint, so that modern Scotland-Scotland by the seventeenth century-has been gardened, with no un-policied nature anywhere, and the only worse yet to come the townscape, the rustic villages, towns shaped with a view to the view, town hall spire rhyming with church steeple, a skyline constructed because they saw themselves as others would see them as they drove around the curve of the road, and they wanted to be ready for them, one tree left at the margin of a hill to catch the sunset in its branches, a grove of trees in the middle of a city as a park or square or green, the whole of Scotland a manshape, and the interferences of men applauded everywhere by men as they drove out to view the scenery and viewed the sum of infinitesimal greeds, the history of Scottish appetites, uncalculated and incalculable intrusions into the forest until the forest became a moor... ("Interim")

-William S.

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There is, in fact, no need to drag politics into literary theory: as with South African sport, it has been there from the beginning. I mean by the political no more than the way we organize our social life together, and the power-relations which this involves; and what I have tried to show throughout this book is that the history of modern literary theory is part of the political and ideological history of our epoch. From Percy Bysshe Shelley to Norman N. Holland, literary theory has been indissociably bound up with political beliefs and ideological values. Indeed literary theory is less an object of intellectual enquiry in its own right than a particular perspective in which to view the history of our times. Nor should this be in the least cause for surprise. For any body of theory concerned with human meaning, value, language, feeling and experience will inevitably engage with broader, deeper beliefs about the nature of human individuals and societies, problems of power and sexuality, interpretations of past history, versions of the present and hopes for the future. It is not a matter of regretting that this is so — of blaming literary theory for being caught up with such questions, as opposed to some 'pure' literary theory which might be absolved from them. Such 'pure' literary theory is an academic myth: some of the theories we have examined in this book are nowhere more clearly ideological than in their attempts to ignore history and politics altogether. Literary theories are not to be upbraided for being political, but for being on the whole covertly or unconsciously so — for the blindness with which they offer as a supposedly 'technical', 'self-evident', 'scientific' or 'universal' truth doctrines which with a little reflection can be seen to relate to and reinforce the particular interests of particular groups of people at particular times.

-Terry Eagleton

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My identity as Jewish cannot be reduced to a religious affiliation. Professor Said quoted Gramsci, an author that I’m familiar with, that, and I quote, ‘to know thyself is to understand that we are a product of the historical process to date which has deposited an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory’. Let’s apply this pithy observation to Jewish identity. While it is tempting to equate Judaism with Jewishness, I submit to you that my identity as someone who is Jewish is far more complex than my religious affiliation. The collective inventory of the Jewish people rests on my shoulders. This inventory shapes and defines my understanding of what it means to be Jewish. The narrative of my people is a story of extraordinary achievement as well as unimaginable horror. For millennia, the Jewish people have left their fate in the hands of others. Our history is filled with extraordinary achievements as well as unimaginable violence. Our centuries-long Diaspora defined our existential identity in ways that cannot be reduced to simple labels. It was the portability of our religion that bound us together as a people, but it was our struggle to fit in; to be accepted that identified us as unique. Despite the fact that we excelled academically, professionally, industrially, we were never looked upon as anything other than Jewish. Professor Said in his book, Orientalism, examined how Europe looked upon the Orient as a dehumanized sea of amorphous otherness. If we accept this point of view, then my question is: How do you explain Western attitudes towards the Jews? We have always been a convenient object of hatred and violent retribution whenever it became convenient. If Europe reduced the Orient to an essentialist other, to borrow Professor Said’s eloquent language, then how do we explain the dehumanizing treatment of Jews who lived in the heart of Europe? We did not live in a distant, exotic land where the West had discursive power over us. We thought of ourselves as assimilated. We studied Western philosophy, literature, music, and internalized the same culture as our dominant Christian brethren. Despite our contribution to every conceivable field of human endeavor, we were never fully accepted as equals. On the contrary, we were always the first to be blamed for the ills of Western Europe. Two hundred thousand Jews were forcibly removed from Spain in 1492 and thousands more were forcibly converted to Christianity in Portugal four years later. By the time we get to the Holocaust, our worst fears were realized. Jewish history and consciousness will be dominated by the traumatic memories of this unspeakable event. No people in history have undergone an experience of such violence and depth. Israel’s obsession with physical security; the sharp Jewish reaction to movements of discrimination and prejudice; an intoxicated awareness of life, not as something to be taken for granted but as a treasure to be fostered and nourished with eager vitality, a residual distrust of what lies beyond the Jewish wall, a mystical belief in the undying forces of Jewish history, which ensure survival when all appears lost; all these, together with the intimacy of more personal pains and agonies, are the legacy which the Holocaust transmits to the generation of Jews who have grown up under its shadow. -Fictional debate between Edward Said and Abba Eban.

-R.F. Georgy

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[Bisexuality] is seen as threatening the homosexual/heterosexual and male/female dichotomies, or binarisms, which underpin our gender and sexual identities to such a large extent. In the case of the first three stereotypes, there is a refusal even to acknowledge the existence of bisexuality. It is simply wished out of existence. You can either be homosexual or heterosexual but anything else is just a phase, just playacting, not real. As Udis-Kessler argues [‘Challenging the Stereotypes’, in Rose and Stevens (eds), Bisexual Horizons: Politics, Histories, Lives. 1996. London: Lawrence and Wishart, pp. 45-57], this reflects an ideology of essentialism which dismisses the idea that sexuality may be fluid, not fixed, and that its forms can change over a person’s lifetime. This ideology assumes that there is a ‘true’ sexuality which we are working our way towards and that bisexuality is not really ‘true’ or ‘serious’ because it is a transition towards that other state… As Udis-Kessler points out, transitions are not a rehearsal for life. Life is a series of transitions: points of arrival become new points of departure, and vice versa. So why should we assume that the way we experienced our sexuality ten or twenty years ago is necessarily less ‘true’ or important than the way we experience it now, or that the way we experience it now will necessarily be the same in ten or twenty years time? Obviously this applies not only to bisexuality, but it is an argument which those - including some lesbian and gay activists - who accuse bisexuality of being a sort of ‘false consciousness’ seldom get to grips with… lesbians and gay men, anxious to create safe spaces where they are not subject to homophobic rejection or oppression, may (consciously or unconsciously) seek to exclude bisexuals[…].Unfortunately, as soon as this happens, as with every oppressed or stigmatised group, it can lead to others being oppressed or stigmatised in turn.

-Richard Dunphy

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