Tangled references and representations

Consider the case of a self-portrait of the artist at work. The body of the artist isn't really a body, it's just paint. The palette being used by the artist isn't really a palette, it's just paint. And the paint on the palette ... no, wait, it really is paint! So do we here have a case of something being represented by itself?

Or what about "fictional music"? In Thomas Mann's novel Doktor Faustus, we have the fictional composer Adrian Leverkühn and his fictional compositions. Mann did not write a note of these, yet he does refer to them within the novel, so they are as fictional as Adrian himself. What's more, fictional Adrian also invents the system of 12-tone composition, which in the Real World was invented by Arnold Schoenberg. (S. made a fuss about this, and Mann inserted a note into the preface.) Now if I published musical compositions by Leverkühn, I would be at best committing another fiction, or at worst deceiving the public. Those works would be by someone else altogether (me, perhaps, or even Mann, but not Leverkühn).

Douglas Hofstadter discusses the case of A, who is writing a novel in which appears the fictional character B, who is writing a novel in which appears the fictional character C, who is writing a novel in which appears the fictional character A! Is this possible? Why, yes; all three characters are mere fictions in a novel written by D.

The TV (and radio) business is much like the chicken business: the chickens only think it's all being done for their benefit. In fact, the real customers (the advertisers, in the case of TV) are hidden, and the chickens only get whatever will barely keep them alive (watching/listening).

Consider A, B, and C, who all tell the truth. A has a principle that says "Tell the truth", and he wishes to act according to his principles, so he tells the truth. B has no such principle, but believes that he will suffer if he does not tell the truth, so he too tells the truth. C like A has the principle, but like B his motivation for telling the truth is avoidance of suffering. C acts in accordance with his principle (objectively speaking), but not because of (i.e. motivated by) it.

A FOAF of mine claimed to be two-thirds Cherokee. When asked how that could be, he replied "Simple. Both of my parents are two-thirds Cherokee."

So to make a long story short (but too late now): trust me, Tully and Cicero are the same person, because whatever is true of one is true of the other, even if you know that Cicero is a great Roman orator but never heard of Tully before. And the Morning Star and the Evening Star are the same thing, too, namely the planet Venus. And furze is gorse, and gorse is furze, and it matters not whether you contract Jakob-Creutzfeld disease or Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, for in either case your brain will one day look like Emmenthaler, or "Swiss cheese" as we simplistically call it here in the U. S. of A., as if there were no other cheeses from that country. Or as Niklaus Wirth replied when asked how to pronounce his name, "You may call me by name, and call me Veert, or you may call me by value, and call me Worth."

And Livorno is called Leghorn (a breed of chicken) in English, and Italy is called Włochy in Polish, and my second floor is a Brit's first floor, and even the O.E.D. (also called the N.E.D.) despairs of distinguishing between beer, properly so called, and ale, properly so called. But stop reading this farrago (from the Latin word for cattle feed, especially that made from Hordeum vulgare, or barley, which brings us back to beer) and go have either one or the other.

Ceci ne pas un message.


Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of several things:

- The novel Venus on the Half Shell by Kilgore Trout, a character created by Kurt Vonnegut to which is attributed a novel by Philip Jose Farmer

- The tradition within Jewish literary history of attributing new works to authors long dead, so that the Zohar, probably written by Moses de Leon (if I recall correctly), was attributed to Simon bar Yohai.

- The novel within Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream that is attributed to Adolf Hitler

- The girl who lived a few houses away from me when I was in junior high school: having dreamed up a monster living in her cellar named "Joe Zitt" well before I moved there, she was always unsure as to whether I actually existed.

- Jethro Tull (the band filed under "J") not to be confused with Jethro Tull (the inventor filed under"T")

- That I should get to sleep rather than blather on...

Anonymous said...

Wow, this one is particularly convoluted, inveigled, and entertaining, even for you!

I really enjoy reading your blog, thanks for writing it.

Keith Gaughan said...

Włochy? As in Walloon, Wallachia, Wales, and so on?

John Cowan said...

Absolutely. The root is a Germanic one, and means "person of Romance or (in Britain) Celtic speech", as JRRT pointed out. Later it was generalized or specialized in various languages.