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ache of modernism

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Two passages. The first from Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles:

“The trees have inquisitive eyes, haven’t they?–that is, seem as if they had. And the river says,–‘Why do ye trouble me with your looks?’ And you seem to see numbers of to-morrows just all in a line, the first of them the biggest and clearest, the others getting smaller and smaller as they stand farther away; but they all seem very fierce and cruel and as if they said, ‘I’m coming! Beware of me! Beware of me!’ … But YOU, sir, can raise up dreams with your music, and drive all such horrid fancies away!”

And the second from Woolf’s To the Lighthouse:

In spring the garden urns, casually filled with wind-blown plants, were gay as ever. Violets came and daffodils. But the stillness and the brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night, with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking before them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so terrible.

Twin horrors of the modern period: the “horrid fancy” of human immanence within nature, and, on the other hand, the “terrible” realization of its cyclical continuance without human eyes to see it. In both cases, the horror is predicated on a strange conjunction of consciousness, unconsciousness, and time

It is significant, I think, that “anthropomorphic” has no inverse, no opposite. There is no word, that is, for the attribution of inhuman characteristics to humans or humanity.

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 5, 2006 at 2:12 am

Posted in animal, consciousness, woolf

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