Comprehension Questions 07

Passage 1:

Theresa Kelley and Thomas Pfau rehearse a debate- I would call it an anxiety-about Romanticism that has inflected culture since its very inception: can the aesthetic, and our critical engagement with the aesthetic, produce meaning that is, well, meaningful? The question begs too many qualifications, of course, not least of which is the often plaintive cry about the contingencies of predication; that is, meaning for whom, for what, and why do we even bother about it in the first place? We cannot predicate sure attributes of cultural purpose because, abstraction that it is, owe end in circular claims about the meaning of meaning. We are not quite circus animals chasing our respective tails, I hope, but this problem is consistently played out in the domain of pleasure, or at least of affective responsiveness. For surely we come to ask the question of cultural products only at the point in which we are radically invested in them: we profess in the domain of culture, and few professors in the humanities extricate their own modes of self-understanding from their professional preoccupations.

The issue, that is, defines us in banal ways too: after all the debates about the uses of pleasure, what can be said about our status as professional critics and scholars? (This is partly the issue that Thomas Pfau takes up polemically.) And must this question truly be allied with the more conceptually difficult one about the place of affective experience in aesthetic judgment? Both Pfau and Kelley are concerned to define the place of the aesthetic within a judgment that comprehends a relation between that which is meaningful for our interiority and that which is meaningful from the perspective of the socially iterable. Kelley finds reassurance in Hilary Putnam’s recent re-thinking of philosophical realism, in which mind and world may be stitched together more thoroughly. But still more questions arise. Does the potential solipsism necessarily inherent in any aesthetic pleasure find a rapport, or a reciprocal production of meaning, with the empirical world? If Romanticism has a grasp upon the actual (to recall F.R. Leavis’s famous indictment of Shelley) that is not merely weak, how do the actual and the pleasure of that aesthetic “grasp” signify to each other? These are the questions that I hope a brief consideration of Romanticism and philosophy in an historical age might open on to. The essays and counter-responses in this volume represent works in progress by Kelley and Pfau, and we invite our readers’ input into their respective polemics.

It was Foucault, of course, who re-ignited interest in the question, “What is Enlightenment,” and the questions, “what is maturity?” and “what is modernity?” followed quick on its heels. But Foucault knew that the “aesthetics of existence” is interrogated precisely in the service of establishing “an ontology of ourselves”, and the historicist passage between them must comprehend also the minutiae of expression. We need to know now what a mature reading in this post-enlightenment age of deeply vexed modernity can possibly mean. The access so vital to the final Foucault is an exercise of oneself; and if thought is an activity that yields a “game of truth” by which one undergoes change, then surely an interrogation of the technical “games” of poetics may be said to speak to a vital aspect of human need. Kelley’s close analysis of John Clare’s poetry is an instructive instance in this regard.

If poetic cadence, for example, resonates-or more to the point, if what we believe about the allure of cadence is that it answers to a rhythm essentially held within us-then we are, it is true, treading on structuralist ground: poetics touches us at the level of resonance sounding deep within us. But determining the historicity of formalist norms (this is just one instance of a possible avenue of exploration) is still fecund scholarly ground. What seems to have needlessly polarized the academy, however, is the assumption that poetic resonance must be interpreted as either ideological or, alternatively, structural in an essentialist, naively psychologised manner. But again, how could a psychological resonance not be, at least in some manner, participation within a dominant norm? Or at least, in what arenas were such assumptions ever challenged? The genealogy of the ideological ground of aesthetic compulsion still needs to take account of an aesthetic history. In this volume, Pfau and Kelley respond to one another partly in the terms of such issues (a response follows each essay). They help us find a way into a cultural context that does not, as it were, forgive the text merely its social determinations on the one hand, or fetishize its historical contingencies on the other. In some respects, what they articulate about Romanticism is nothing less than the uses (variously conceived) of its pleasures.


Based on the Passage, answer the following questions:

1) This passage could most probably have been sourced from

a) A book written by Kelley and Pfau.

b) A debate on romanticism by Kelley and Pfau.

c) An article which talks about romanticism and culture, and views of different people like Pfau, Kelly on romanticism.

d) A prelude to a composition which links romanticism and philosophy in a historical age.


2)According to the author, Kelley and Pfau wanted to establish which of the following things:

A) Characterise the position of aesthetic within a judgement

B) How do the actual and the pleasure of that aesthetic “Grasp” signify to each other

C)The uses of the pleasures of Romanticism

D)The place of Affective experience in aesthetic judgement

a) A, B, C & D

b) A, B & C

c) A, B & D

d) A & C


3)Why does the author use the statement “circus animals chasing our respective tails”

a) The author wants to emphasise that this is a problem played out consistently in the domain of pleasure.

b) The author wants to emphasise that we are facing a problem with a circular claim on the meaning of meaning.

c) The author wants to emphasise that this is a problem played out at least in the domain of affective responsiveness.

d) Both a and c together.


4)Which of the following is probably not true with respect to the passage?

a) Hilary Putnam supported Kelly’s Thought on aesthetics

b) There were some authors who were criticising Shelley’s thoughts

c) The author supports Kelly’s views of aesthetics position.

d) None of the above


5)What is the main reason for Poetic cadence dividing the academy?

a) Because Poetic cadence was interpreted as structural in an essentialist manner

b) Because It answered to a rhythm essentially within us.

c) Because it treaded on structuralist ground it was assumed to be structural in a naive manner

d) None of the above


6) Who reignited the question -“What is maturity?”

a) Kelly & Pfau in their book

b) Foucalt

c) John Clare

d) F.R. Leavis


Passage 2:

For the agent, however, reason is the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter is the reason for the civitas, whether it is vocalized or not. What is at stake in what I do is the kind of person I become. What is at stake in what we do is the kind of city we inhabit. In both the individual and the social variation of that mantra, familiar from virtue ethics, every action is the conclusion of a practical syllogism; it carries with it an argument, and the argument underwrites both character and civitas. The relationship is circular: character forms and is formed by every action, and each action tends to confirm the character of the agent. And the city forms and is formed by the characters it contains. When Paine says that the long habit of not thinking a thing wrong creates the superficial impression of its being right, he brings to our attention the fact that the long habit of not thinking a thing wrong makes it unlikely that we will think to change it. The shape of the city, like the shape of character, is a counterweight to change. On the positive side, this makes cities and characters relatively stable; and it gives us some idea what to expect of them if we have been paying attention. On the negative side, this renders characters and cities largely impervious to reason. Time makes more converts than reason, but time also tends, for better or worse, to confirm reasons of the heart that reason cannot know. What passes as stability may simply be inertia.

Revolutionary theory turns on this question: is it stability or is it inertia? Either way, change is–and should be–difficult. For conservative theorists such as Burke, this translates into gradualism. The civitas changes in the manner of an organism, maturing in time and evolving across generations. Sudden change is the exception, not the rule. And, to a large extent, revolutionary theorists agree. Jefferson felt obliged to document a long pattern of abuse as justification for a single violent act. David Walker, writing with Jefferson in mind and partly in response to his Notes on the State of Virginia, followed the same pattern. Thoreau urged readers to let the ordinary friction of civil society pass and reserve disobedience for consistent affronts to human dignity. The African National Congress documented centuries of abuse before turning to armed resistance. Jefferson and Mao Zedong both asserted that every generation needed its own revolution, but, even so, they agreed that every revolution required reason. The whole world, for Jefferson, is a court before which the revolutionary has to make a case. That the New Left in the United States took up this Jeffersonian approach is reflected in its most simplified form by the chant “the whole world is watching” that framed demonstrations in Chicago in 1968. That the actions were (and are) called demonstrations suggests, at least, an audience and something to be demonstrated. Both revolution and war are put forward as rhetorical strategies within an argument that involves the world as a whole. Drawing the whole world into every act of violence may partly explain why “local” wars and revolutions have escalated into global conflicts. But my point here is to focus on rhetorical strategy in the context of an argument. Thoreau was convinced that no act was rhetorically insignificant, and both Gandhi and King followed him in this. The most revolutionary act in Gandhi’s account was spinning the thread with which to make the clothes one wore. And this is critical to civil disobedience as a rhetorical strategy.

One common thread in rational justifications for war and revolution is the documentation of violence and abuse against which war or revolution is a reaction. War and revolution are invariably depicted as last resorts: they are justified when there is nothing else to be done. This is hardly surprising, since the strongest argument demonstrates a necessary conclusion. If the conclusion is necessary, then disagreement with it is nonsensical.

In this regard, civil disobedience is a promising variation on a theme that includes the perpetual revolutions of Jefferson and Mao. Perpetual revolution suggests that no revolution is a conclusion: as a step in an argument, it can never be more than provisional. If resort to violence can be justified only by necessity, then it can never be justified. More to the point, it can never be more than provisionally justified. The rhetorical question (and, contrary to popular usage, there is no more important question to ask) is “what next?” Mao and Jefferson suspected that revolution led to revolution. As good revolutionaries, they went into this with their eyes open (at their best) and never let the revolutionary flame die down. In this regard, Tom Paine and Che Guevara were more consistent revolutionaries. But Thoreau was perhaps the most consistent revolutionary of all. Rather than fanning a revolutionary flame, he maintained that every act is part of a political argument. Compliance justifies the political context within which it takes place. Noncompliance undermines it. But while noncompliance undermines the political context within which it takes place, it implies another political context. Consciously and unconsciously, intentionally and unintentionally, it imagines and cultivates another political context. The constitution of the civitas is the ensemble of actions undertaken by those who inhabit it.


Based on the Passage, answer the following questions:

7) According to the author, what is the final outcome of a perpetual revolution included in civil disobedience?

a) Perpetual revolution led to another revolution as it suggests that Revolution is not a conclusion.

b) The visualization and Nurturing of a new political framework.

c) Perpetual revolution led to another revolution as it suggests that Revolution can never be more than provisionally justified.

d) Both a & c


8) Which of the following examples, if true, closely parallels one of the arguments brought about in the first paragraph of the passage?

a) Sachin has never got out to a short ball. So he thinks he has the right technique to handle short balls and doesn’t want to change it.

b) Dhoni has never missed a stumping while keeping. So he believes that his stance while keeping is correct.

c) Murali has never been called for illegal action by umpires. So he doesn’t want to change his legal action now.

d) Dickie bird has never given a wrong decision. So he sees no reason in changing his decision making process.


9)With which of the following argument is the author non committal in the entire passage?

a) Revolution and war are put forward as rhetorical strategies within an argument

b) Sudden change is not a law but an exemption

c) Perpetual revolution is not a conclusion but a step in the argument

d) Local wars and revolutions escalating into global conflicts.


10)The following statements find support from the lines in the passage except

a) David Walker, a revolutionary like Jefferson agreed with the views of Jefferson

b) Thoreau, the most consistent revolutionary, urged people to reserve disobedience for consistent affronts to human dignity

c) Mao and Jefferson were good revolutionaries who never let the revolutionary flame die down.

d) Since war and revolution was deemed as a necessary conclusion to end violence and abuse disagreement with it was nonsensical.



Passage 3:

Writers’ invisibility has little or nothing to do with Fame, just as Fame has little or nothing to do with Literature. (Fame merits its capital F for its fickleness, Literature its capital L for its lastingness.) Thespians, celebrities and politicians, whose appetite for bottomless draughts of public acclaim, much of it manufactured, is beyond any normal measure, may feed hotly on Fame – but Fame is always a product of the present culture: topical and variable, hence ephemeral. Writers are made otherwise. What writers’ prize is simpler, quieter and more enduring than clamorous Fame: it is recognition. Fame, by and large, is an accountant’s category, tallied in Amazonian sales. Recognition, hushed and inherent in the silence of the page, is a reader’s category: its stealth is its wealth. And recognition itself can be fragile, a light too easily shuttered. Recall Henry James’s lamentation over his culminating New York Edition, with its considered revisions and invaluable prefaces: the mammoth work of a lifetime unheralded, unread, and unsold. That all this came to be munificently reversed is of no moment: the denizens of Parnassus are deaf to after-the-fact earthly notice; belatedness does them no good. Nothing is more poisonous to steady recognition than death: how often is a writer – lauded, fêted, bemedalled – plummeted into eclipse no more than a year or two after the final departure? Who nowadays speaks of Bernard Malamud, once a diadem in the grand American trinity of Bellow-Roth-Malamud? Who thinks of Lionel Trilling, except with dismissive commemorative contempt? Already Norman Mailer is a distant unregretted noise and William Styron a mote in the middle distance (a phrase the nearly forgotten Max Beerbohm applied to the fading Henry James). As for poor befuddled mystical Jack Kerouac and declamatory fiddle-strumming mystical Allen Ginsberg, both are diminished to Documents of an Era: the stale turf of social historians and tedious professors of cultural studies. Yet these eruptions of sudden mufflings and posthumous silences must be ranked entirely apart from the forced muteness of living writers who work in minority languages, away from the klieg lights of the lingua franca, and whose oeuvres linger too often untranslated. The invisibility of recently dead writers is one thing, and can even, in certain cases (I would be pleased to name a few), bring relief; but the invisibility of the living is a different matter altogether, crucial to literary continuity. Political shunning – of writers who are made invisible, and also inaudible, by repressive design – results in what might be called public invisibility, rooted in external circumstance: the thuggish prejudices of gangsters who run rotted regimes, the vengeful prejudices of corrupt academics who propose intellectual boycotts, the shallow prejudices of the publishing lords of the currently dominant languages, and finally (reductio ad absurdum!) the ideologically narrow prejudices of some magazine editors. All these are rampant and scandalous and undermining of free expression. But what of an intrinsic, delicate and far more ubiquitous private invisibility? Vladimir Nabokov was once an invisible writer suffering from three of these unhappy conditions: the public, the private, and the linguistic. As an émigré fleeing the Bolshevik upheavals, and later as a refugee from the Nazis, he escaped the 20th century’s two great tyrannies. And as an émigré writing in Russian in Berlin and Paris, he remained invisible to nearly all but his exiled compatriots. Only on his arrival in America did the marginalising term “émigré” begin to vanish, replaced first by citizen and ultimately by American writer – since it was in America that the invisible became invincible. But Brian Boyd, in his intimate yet panoramic biography, recounts the difficulties, even in welcoming America, of invisible ink’s turning visible – not only in the protracted struggle for the publication of Lolita, but in the most liberal of literary journals.

And here at last is the crux: writers are hidden beings. You have never met one – or, if you should ever believe you are seeing a writer, or having an argument with a writer, or listening to a talk by a writer, then you can be sure it is all a mistake. Inevitably, we are returned to Henry James, who long ago unriddled the conundrum of writers’ invisibility. In a story called “The Private Life”, Clare Vawdrey, a writer burdened by one of those peculiar Jamesian names (rhyming perhaps not accidentally with “tawdry”), is visible everywhere in every conceivable social situation. He is always available for a conversation or a stroll, always accessible, always pleasantly anecdotal, never remote or preoccupied. He has a light-minded bourgeois affability: “He talks, he circulates,” James’s narrator informs us, “he’s awfully popular, he flirts with you.” His work, as it happens, is the very opposite of his visible character: it is steeped in unalloyed greatness. One evening, while Vawdrey is loitering outdoors on a terrace, exchanging banalities with a companion, the narrator steals into Vawdrey’s room – only to discover him seated at his writing table in the dark, feverishly driving his pen. Since it is physically impossible for a material body to be in two places simultaneously, the narrator concludes that the social Vawdrey is a phantom, while the writer working in the dark is the real Vawdrey. “One is the genius,” he explains, “the other’s the bourgeois, and it’s only the bourgeois whom we personally know.”


Based on the Passage, answer the following questions:

11) Which of the following is best exemplified by the character Vawdrey in the passage?

(a) Light-minded bourgeois affability.

(b) Vawdrey is the answer to the writers’ invisibility.

(c) The fact that a writer is the opposite of his perceptible character.

(d) The premise that the writer is an apparition.

(e) The truth that the writer is a brain.


12) According to the passage, the two tyrannies escaped by Nabokov were:

(a) That he was an invisible writer and suffered linguistic problems.

(b) That he fled from the Bolshevik revolution and the Nazi turmoil

(c) That he was welcomed in America but also suffered a rejection.

(d) That his invisibility extended to all and the fact that he wrote in Russian.

(e) That as he began as an émigré and was replaced gradually as an American writer.


13) What, according to the author, is the reason for the invisibility of the living?

a) It hampers literary continuity.

b) The living are shy of the arc lights.

c) Their work is not worthy of consideration.

d) The language is difficult to follow.

e) They are victims of parochialism.


14) The significance of admiration for writers is dissimilar from that of celebrities and politicians because

(a) Fame is transient.

(b) Fame offers immeasurable public approbation.

(c) Writers look for deeper recognition.

(d) Fame is clamorous.

(e) Furtiveness is what the writers prefer