In March 2021, I will be giving a talk and an interview at the ACIS (American Conference of Irish Studies). The theme is “Walk on Air: The Politics and Poetics of Transcendence and Terror.” This is a kind of return to origins. Back when I was a junior in college I studied in Maynooth, Ireland for a year (see picture above). Before that I had written to a professor who taught in Maynooth, William Desmond, and he had written back encouraging me to study there — though he was not there when I went there. The last time I saw Professor Desmond was at a celebration of a life a couple of years ago (see my post about it here). How life revolves and changes. There in 1995-1996 at the National University of Ireland, I had many courses on literature and philosophy (and geography, sociology, history, etc.). We read Yeats and Joyce and Edgworth. We read Camus and Bergson and Descartes. I remember one course on Camus that met at 8:00 in the morning. I still have my notes from that course where my writing would peter out and slobber fell on the page from often falling asleep during class (truly from too much partying the night before). My mind has never worked very well at that time of the morning. The priest-professor had written his PhD on Camus and would speak in a monotone voice reading out his lecture. I was excited by the content but bored by the delivery. About 8 years after studying in Maynooth, one of my first publications was a review of Desmond’s book, Art, Origins, Otherness.
As I prepare my talk today on Desmond on the sublime (and the interview with Colm Toíbín), I am reminded of that year in Maynooth when I was 21-years old. One of my most recent blog posts (see here) was on Camus, and I hope to include some highlights here of the presentation. For now I will just leave you a couple quotes that refer to the conference theme:
Satan is sublime—Milton’s Satan—sublime in revolt—and revolting, even if sublime.
Satan: the sublime evil of the erotics of selving, in the usurped sovereignty that counterfeits God.
Ahab is sublime—Melville’s Ahab—erotics of selving bordering the infernal in Ahab’s monomaniacal hatred of the hunted Moby Dick—Moby Dick, the white monster, the blank Leviathan,also hyperbolic and sublime, but whether in evil or innocence remains in mystery.