Lecture 14: The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning


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Fourteenth lecture for my students in English 165EW, "Life After the End of the World," winter 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/w13/

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Lecture 14: The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning

  1. 1. Lecture 14: The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning English 165EW Winter 2013 27 February 2013 “And you are right. There will be pain for us all, but it will not be all pain, nor will this pain be the last. We […] will have to pass through the bitter water before we reach the sweet.” — Abraham Van Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897)
  2. 2. The Great Flood 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them, and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6)
  3. 3. 17 Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. […] 23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. (Genesis 7)
  4. 4. 8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10 “and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 “Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9)
  5. 5. The purifying ritual “there was such an abundance of water, all of it purifying.” (307; ch. 16) “she searched in the kitchen for soap and detergents, scrubbing brushes, anything that might be used to clean a little, at least a little, of this unbearable filth of the soul. Of the body, she said, as if to correct the metaphysical thought, then she added, It’s all the same.” (279; ch. 15)
  6. 6. “He made lather so that the cleaning process should be extended […] he was a man of foam, white in the middle of an immense white blindness where nobody could find him.” (284; ch. 15) “If only the rain would last, in this situation sunshine would be the worst that could happen to us, said the doctor’s wife.” (286; ch. 15) “But you wrote books and those books carry your name, said the doctor’s wife, Now nobody can read them, it is as if they did not exist.” (290; ch. 15)
  7. 7. To complete a sorites … The girl with the dark glasses: “in my opinion we’re already dead, we’re blind because we’re dead, or if you would prefer me to put it another way, we’re dead because we’re blind, it comes to the same thing.” (251; ch. 14) The writer: “Blind people do not need a name, I am my voice, nothing else matters.” (290; ch. 15) The doctor: “the human body is also an organised system, it lives as long as it keeps organised, and death is only the effect of a disorganisation.” (296; ch. 16)
  8. 8. “We are already half dead, said the doctor, We are still half alive too, answered his wife.” (303; ch. 16) “And then the doctor’s wife said, What times we live in, we find the order of things inverted, a symbol that nearly always signified death has become a sign of life, There are hands capable of these and greater wonders, said the doctor.” (304; ch. 16)
  9. 9. Blindspace “we are in an old building and badly designed at that, […] doorways so narrow that they look more like bottlenecks, corridors as crazy as the other inmates of the asylum, opening for no clear reason and closing who knows where, and no one is ever likely to find out.” (144; ch. 9) “We may observe in the flesh how badly planned and organized these human communities in orphanages, hospitals and mental asylums have been, note how each bed, in itself, with his framework of pointed metal bars, can be transformed into a lethal trap, look at the terrible consequences of of having only one door to wards occupied by forty people, not counting those asleep on the floor, if the fire gets there first and blocks their exit, no one will escape.” (213, ch. 12)
  10. 10. “The Groping City”* “the fact is that there is no comparison between living in a rational labyrinth, which is, by definition, a mental asylum and venturing forth, without a guiding hand or a dog-leash, into the demented labyrinth of the city, where memory will serve no purpose, for it will merely be able to recall the images of places but not the paths whereby we might get there.” (217; ch. 13) the doctor’s wife: “There’s no difference between inside and outside, between here and there, between the many and the few, between what we’re living through and what we shall have to live through.” (242; ch. 14) * Wyndham, ch. 3
  11. 11. “new ways of living are being invented”* “everyone is blind, the whole city, the entire country […] it was not the same as before, when blind people could always count on the assistance of some passerby, whether to cross the street, or to get back on to the right path in the case of having inadvertently strayed from the usual route.” (222; ch. 13) the doctor’s wife: “life exists, because your four senses say so.” (242; ch. 14) “the whole banking system collapsed, blown over like a house of cards” (267; ch. 14) * the doctor, 256 (ch. 14)
  12. 12. The doctor’s wife and the girl with dark glasses: “the feelings with which we have lived and which allowed us to live as we were, depended on our having the eyes we were born with. […] Before, when we could still see, there were also blind people, Few in comparison, the feelings we use were those of someone who could see, therefore blind people felt with the feelings of others, not as the blind people they were, now, certainly, what is emerging are the real feelings of the blind.” (252; ch. 14) The doctor’s wife: “You are a writer, you have, as you said a moment ago, an obligation to know words, therefore you know that adjectives are of no use to us, if a person kills another, for example, it would be better to state this fact openly, directly, and to trust that the horror of the act, in itself, is so shocking that there is no need for us to say it was horrible.” (292; ch. 15)
  13. 13. New forms of identity “Were we not trying to reduce her [the girl with the dark glasses] to some primary definition, we should finally say of her, in the broad sense, that she lives as she pleases and moreover gets all the pleasure she can from life.” (23; ch. 2) The doctor’s wife: “should I turn blind, if after turning blind I should no longer be the person I was, how would I then be able to go on loving him, and with what love”? (252; ch. 14) The doctor’s wife: “Perhaps humanity will manage to live without eyes, but then it will cease to be humanity, the result is obvious, which of us think of ourselves as being as human as we believed ourselves to be before”? (255)
  14. 14. The doctor’s wife: “now we are all equal regarding good and evil, please, don’t ask me what good and what evil are, we knew what it was each time we had to act when blindness was an exception, what is right and what is wrong are simply different ways of understanding our relationships with the others […] forgive this moralising speech, you do not know, you cannot know, what it means to have eyes in a world in which everyone else is blind.” (276; ch. 15) The girl with the dark glasses: “inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.” (276)
  15. 15. “I have no explanation, there may not be one”* “She looked at them, her eyes filled with tears, there they were, as dependent on her as little children on their mother. If I should let them down—she thought. It did not occur to her that all around her the people were blind yet managed to live.” (225; ch. 13) The old man with the eye patch: “let’s be glad of our good fortune at still having a pair of seeing eyes with us here, the last pair left, if they are extinguished one day, I don’t even want to think about it, then the thread which links us to that human mankind would be broken.” (305; ch. 15) * the doctor’s wife, 293 (ch. 16)
  16. 16. “for the first time since the onset of blindness, it was the doctor who guided his wife.” (313; ch. 17) “Why did we become blind, I don’t know, perhaps one day we’ll find out. Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.” (326; ch. 17) “It is my turn, she thought. Fear made her quickly lower her eyes. The city was still there.” (326)