CORRESPONDENCE

 

 

From: "Joel Weishaus" To: "Alan Sondheim"
Subject: Cybermidrash
Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Alan:

Wondering if you'd like to collaborate on a project with me. What I have in mind is taking a text and around it writing commentaries, and commentaries on commentaries, opening and tearing the text, in different typefaces, sizes, colors, a large page of Cybermidrash. (Re-reading Daniel Boyarin's, "The Eye in the Torah: Ocular Desire in Midrashic Hermeneutic." Critical Inquiry, Spring 1990. Maybe the original text can come from this.) What do you think?

 


From: "Alan Sondheim"
To: "Joel Weishaus"
Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash

Joel:

I keep thinking about the originary text - perhaps something from the Torah? Given the state of things at the moment... Would also be up for a chapter from the Tao or Chuang Tze - the problem being we'd have to look at the Chinese. There's also the NT passages re: rendering unto Caesar  etc. - Let me know what you think. I wouldn't mind Blanchot. My mind also goes  towards Marco Polo, perhaps in relation to Coleridge's Xanadu -

 


From: "Joel Weishaus"
To: "Alan Sondheim"
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash
Date: Thursday, March 13, 2003

Too much commentary on Blanchot already. Coleridge too. The right text is of course very important. Maybe someone not usually discussed. Someone no one would think to write commentaries on. One paragraph is all we need to begin. Give me today to think about this.

Do you have a copy of Edward H. Schafer's, The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain Maidens? This paragraph on p.114: "Consort Fu, the anthropomorphized Lo goddess, here becomes the light-footed goddess of the moon. So she presides not only over an earthly river but also over its celestrial counterpart--both were, as she was, exemplars of the yin principle. But Li Shang-yin has handled the ancient metaphysical belief as a mere literary conceit. The best that could be done with the figure of the wave treader was to insist on her as a model for geishas and court beauties. Yet she was outshone by a courtesan who lacked both the glitter of water surface and the sheen of moon. I refer to the fourtheenth of Lo Ch'iu's poems in praise of the woman he had murdered. It says that if Ts'ao Chih could have glimpsed such a one as Hung-erh, he would not have emotions left to hymn the Spirit of the Lo. In both cases the supernatural allusions are mere powder and rouge." I don't know the references, Lo Ch'iu's poems, for example, but this paragraph is pregnant from mythology, literary criticism, history, psychology, metaphysics....

 


From: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
To: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2003
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash


I don't have this... I'd still like to work with a primary, instead of a secondary, text, if you're in agreement. For example, the Koran LIII,
19, fascinates me - it mentions older non-Islamic goddesses. It doesn't have to be that, but to spend time otherwise for me is to return almost to
graduate school - I mean closely reading secondary sources, digging through them, answering them. On the other hand, I once taught a
humanities course at Atlanta College of Art, emphasizing for the first few weeks, the 10 commandments - looking closely at the language, and
analyzing them from a psychoanalytical viewpoint. It was fascinating to do that... Let me know what you think?


From: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
To: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash
Date: Thursday, March 13, 2003

It's not a secondary text, but so well written that it does sound like one! But I like your idea about the Koran. Where can I read this passage?

 


From: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
To: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2003
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash

The Koran passage is in... the Koran!
I think you could even find the Koran online. I also have the Islamic Encyclopedia here - which is an enormous project that was reduced to one large book for public consumption (the whole has been going on a century I think). That has helped. And then there are various things here and there I've been looking at.

One reason the Koran might be good - the times were in, and at least my relative ignorance...

 


From: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
To: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash
Date: Thursday, March 13, 2003


I'll look it up. Was wondering why this particular passage. Well, don't tell me, I'll look at it and know.

I like the idea of the Koran, especially after --- wrote me that horrific letter about how the Koran is evil. Of course he's never read it.
You know the line in "The Silence of Sasquatch": "Today I am a Muslim, praying as I fly to the last vestiges of my fledgling life..."? (Psychopomp) I had Yevteshenko's poem "Babi Yar" in mind, where he declares himself a Jew in the anti-semitic Soviet Union. In this spirit,  today I am a Muslim.

 


From: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
To: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2003
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash


The Koran's not evil, it's rigorous!" But I do have a hard time coming to grips with what reads as paranoia and absolutism in it. It's a very medieval text, the opposite of Jewish exegesis, which emphasizes dialog and quarreling rabbis. A yeshiva is one of the noisiest places around - Do take a look at it; we could use the Penguin version in translation if you like - it's inexpensive and readily available -

 


From: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
To: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash
Date: Friday, March 14, 2003


I looked at the passage, and it is interesting. But I realized last night that I can't write commentary on a "holy book." It seems pretentious. Don't you think? Maybe we need to keep looking, as the text--and I think it should be no more than a paragraph, is the stepping off place.

Yes, one of the wonderful things about Judaism is the argument. Jabs built his aesthetic on this. While Hillman said that "Philosophy is about keeping the conversation going." The French are doing a good job in the UN by acting as a barrier to war, which is the end of the conversation. the failure of dialogue. War is humanity's bleeding heel.

 


From: "Alan Sondheim" sondheim@panix.com
To: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash
Date: Friday, March 14, 2003

Have you seen Leon Wieseltier's Kaddish? Or Marc-Alain Ouaknin's The Burnt Book? - You should know both these works; they've had a great  influence on me and are definitely midrashic. The latter is brilliant, the former slow and mournful exegesis...

 


From: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
To: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
Subject: Re: Cybermidrash
Date: Friday, March 14, 2003


I just ordered The Burnt Book via interlibrary loan, as no library here has it, nor bookstore. I know of his other books, but haven't seen this. Thanks for telling me about it. Maybe we can find a paragraph in it?

 


From: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
To: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
Subject: Collaboration
Date: Wednesday, March 26, 2003


I came across this, in The Burnt Book, from Levinas, this morning:

"So transmission contains a teaching that becomes apparent in the very receptivity of learning and that continues it: real learning consists in receiving the lesson so profoundly that it is transformed into a necessity of being dispensed to the other person; the lesson of truth cannot be limited to the mind of one man, it bursts out toward others."

What do you think about using this as the threshold of a route?

 


From: "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim@panix.com>
To: "Joel Weishaus" <weishaus@pdx.edu>
Subject: Re: Collaboration
Date: Wednesday, March 26, 2003


This sounds excellent - do you have the page? Also, what is the original source? My copy of The Burnt Book is somewhere in the midst of my others -
it's disseminating from a distance!


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