Dialogue on the Threshold

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Saturday, 31 July 2010


A patient noticed the waiter in the coffee-house; he skipped past him so quickly and uncannily. He noticed odd behaviour in an acquaintance which made him feel strange; everything in the street was so different, something was bound to be happening. A passer-by gave such a penetrating glance, he could be a detective. Then there was a dog who seemed hypnotised, a kind of mechanical dog made of rubber. There were such a lot of people walking about, something must surely be starting up against the patient. All the umbrellas were rattling as if some apparatus was hidden inside them.

In other cases patients have noticed transfigured faces, unusual beauty of landscape, brilliant golden hair, overpowering glory of the sunlight. Something must be going on; the world is changing, a new era is starting. Lights are bewitched and will not burn; something is behind it. A child is like a monkey; people are mixed up, they are imposters all, they all look unnatural. The house-signs are crooked, the streets look suspicious; everything happens so quickly. The dog scratches oddly at the door.

Karl Jaspers, General Psychopathology, trans. J. Hoenig and Marian W. Hamilton (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 100.

Einem Kranken fällt im Café der Kellner auf. Der hupfte so schnell und unheimlich an ihm vorbei. Bei einem Bekannten fiel ihm das seltsame Benehmen auf, so daß ihm nicht geheuer war. Auf der Straße war alles so anders. Es mußte etwas los sein. Ein vorübergehender Mann hatte einen so durchdringenden Blick, das war womöglich ein Detektiv. Dann kam ein Hund wie hypnotisiert war, wie ein Gummihund, als wenn er durch Maschinen bewegt wurde. Es waren so viele Menschen unterwegs: es war wohl etwas gegen den Kranken im Werke. Alle klapperten mit den Schirmen, als wenn ein Apparat darin wäre.

In anderen Fällen fallen den Kranken die verklärten Geschichter, die ganz ungewohnte Schönheit der Landschaft, dar auffällig goldene Haar, die überwältigende Schönheit der Sonne auf. Es muß etwas vor sich gehen. Es verändert sich die Welt. Es ist ein neues Zeitalter im Anbruch. Die Lichter sind verhext und wollen nicht brennen. Da steckt etwas Unnatürliches dahinter. Das Kind ist wie ein Affe geworden. Die Menschen sind ,,verwechselt‘‘, es sind ,,Figuranten‘‘, sie sehen alle unnatürlich aus. Die Schilder sind schief an den Häusern, die Straßen sehen so verdächtig aus. Es geht ,,alles so schnell‘‘. Der Hund kratzt so sonderbar an der Tür.

Karl Jaspers, Allgemeine Psychopathologie (Berlin, Heidelberg and New York: Springer-Verlag, 1923, 1973), p. 84

Friday, 30 July 2010

Die lyrische Stimmung

...Darum geht im Liede und der lyrischen Stimmung das Wollen (das persönliche Interesse des Zwecks) und das reine Anschauen der sich darbietenden Umgebung wundersam gemischt durch einander: es werden Beziehungen zwischen beiden gesucht und imaginirt; die subjective Stimmung, die Affection des Willens, theilt der angeschauten Umgebung und diese wiederum jener ihre Farbe im Reflex mit: von diesem ganzen so gemischten und getheilten Gemüthszustande ist das ächte Lied der Abdruck

Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1819)

Ueber den Prozess seines Dichtens hat uns Schiller durch eine ihm selbst unerklärliche, doch nicht bedenklich scheinende psychologische Beobachtung Licht gebracht; er gesteht nämlich als den vorbereitenden Zustand vor dem Actus des Dichtens nicht etwa eine Reihe von Bildern, mit geordneter Causalität der Gedanken, vor sich und in sich gehabt zu haben, sondern vielmehr eine musikalische Stimmung („Die Empfindung ist bei mir anfangs ohne bestimmten und klaren Gegenstand; dieser bildet sich erst später. Eine gewisse musikalische Gemüthsstimmung geht vorher, und auf diese folgt bei mir erst die poetische Idee“).

Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geist der Musik (1872)

Friday, 23 July 2010

Like another Sisyphus

... and giving to one of his old acquaintances his wallet, books, and opistographs, away went he out of town towards a little hill or promontory of Corinth called Craneum: and there on the strand, a pretty level place, did he roll his jolly tub, which served him for an house to shelter him from injuries of the weather; there, I say, in a great vehemency of spirit, did he turn it, veer it, wheel it, whirl it, frisk it, jumble it, shuffle it, huddle it, tumble it, hurry it, justle it, jumble it, joult it, evert it, overthrow it, subvert it, beat it, thwack it, bump it, knock it, thrust it, push it, batter it, shock it, shake it, throw it, toss it, jerk it, overthrow it upside-down, topsy-turvy, arsiversy, tread it, trample it, stamp it, slamp it, tap it, ting it, ring it, tingle it, towl it, sound it, resound it, shut it, unbung it, stop it, close it, unstopple it. He hurled it, slid it down the hill, precipitated it from the very height of the Craneum; heaved it, transfigured it, bespattered it, garnished it, furnished it, bored it, bewrayed it, parched it, bedashed, tottered it, adorned, staggered it, transformed it, brangled it, heaved it, carried it, bedashed it, hacked it; then from the foot to the top, like another Sisyphus with his stone, bore it up again, slid it down the hill, and every way so banged it and belaboured it that it was ten thousand to one he had not struck the bottom of it out.

François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. Sir Thomas Urquhart (1653, 1693)

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Seductiveness of the Interval

The Seductiveness of the Interval catalogue is available from the Renaissance Society Bookstore, at the University of Chicago

Friday, 16 July 2010

Encomium culicis

Caelius Calcagninus (1479-1541)

Ast ego magnanimum culicem quo carmine laudem?
Certe huius rara est gloria, rarus honor.
Cetera quaecunque a nobis insecta vocantur,
Furtim ex insidiis figere tela solent.
Ille, cave, exclamat, metuendaque classica pulsat:
Dissidiaeque nota, qui dolet, ille dolet.
In reliquis fraudem atque astum causabere: nemo
De culicis poterit vulnere jure queri.

l. 4 solent Buonaventura, Carmina illustrium poetarum italorum ] sonant Dornau, Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Socraticae Joco-Seriae

But by which song might I praise the great-souled gnat? Assuredly, rare is its glory, rare its renown. Whatever other things we call insects are wont to lay traps, fastening their stings by stealth. The gnat cries out, "Beware!" and blares his fearful war-trumpet: "And mark the fray, whoever smarts will rue. As for the rest, you will allege trickery and cunning: but no one can justly accuse a gnat for the sake of a wound."

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Latmia saxa

Politian (Angelo de'Ambrosini da Monte Pulciano) (1454-1494)

O mihi quanta datis fallacia gaudia, somni!
Invideo, Endymion, Latmia saxa tibi.
Iam si nil sopor est gelidae nisi mortis imago,
Omnia mors superat gaudia: vita, vale.

Oh, slumbers, how many illusive joys you give me! / I envy thee, Endymion, thy Latmian* rocks. / And if sleep is nought but the image of frigid death, / Then death doth surpass all other joys: life, farewell.

* Latmus, a mountain at the mouth of the Maeander, in Caria, where the Moon descended to kiss the sleeping Endymion

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Melancholicorum risus

Georgio de Chirico, Mélancolie (1912)

Qua de caussa Melancholicorum risus rarior ille quidem, sed immoderatus esse solet?

Certum est: sicut iracundia non est in felle, cuius conceptaculum est in folliculo cavae parti hepatis adnascenti: Ita risum & facultatem ridendis etiam in splene non esse. Splen enim tam destinatus est a natura ad recipiendum ab hepate melancholicum sanguinem & excrementum: Melancholicus autem humor risui, sicut gaudio inimicus est. Risus igitur in ea parte non esse potest, in qua hic humor abundat. Unde igitur est, quod melancholicos effusius ridere contingit? Responsio vera ad hanc quaestionem haec est: Melancholici seu quorum sanguis valde melancholicus & crassus est, ut rariuscule rident, quia sunt natura frigidiores, ita incalescente humore melancholico, si quando in risum erumpunt, in hoc saepiuscule sunt nimii seu solent modum excedere, ob iam dictam calefactionem adventitiam.

Rodolphi Gocklenii De risu et ridiculo problemata (Frankfurt, 1607), cap. xvi

By what cause is the laughter of melancholics wont to be infrequent but immoderate?

It is certain that just as irascibility does not reside in the gall, whose receptacle is in the sac adjoined to the hollow part of the liver, so too laughing and the faculty of laughter do not reside in the spleen. For the spleen is designed by nature to collect melancholic blood and waste from the liver. But the melancholic humour is inimical to laughter, the same as to joy. Therefore laughter cannot reside in that part where this humour abounds. And so why is it that melancholics are seized with unrestrained laughter? The real answer to this question is that melancholics or those whose blood is exceedingly melancholic and incrassate very rarely laugh, because they are colder by nature, and so once the melancholic humour has been inflamed, if they burst out laughing they are very often excessive in this or wont to be immoderate, because of the said heating of the connective tissue.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Cur nullus possit seipse titillare?

Cur nullus possit seipse titillare?

Titillatio risus species esse videtur, etsi nesciam maximis quibusdam Philosophis placere verum risum non esse, sed huic similem. Alii ita loquuntur, ut dicant, ex titillatu in nobis excitari risum, sed haec nunc relinquentes in medio, quaerimus, cur nemo possit seipsum titillare? Respondit Vallesius lib. 5. controversiarum cap. 9. Titillatio fit ex fraudulento & clandestino tactu seu attrectatione partium acerrimi sensus, ad quas musculorum sunt capita. Eae sentiunt voluptatem ex tactu velut delintis carneis partibus, quem repente & latentur accedens transfundit gaudium ad cor cum quadam novitatis specie, atque ita risus fit. At nullus tactus potest sibi ipsi occulte seu latenter occurrere, Nemo igitur potest seipse titillare.

Rodolphi Gocklenii De risu et ridiculo problemata (Frankfurt, 1607), cap. v

Why is no man able to tickle himself?

Tickling can be seen to be a species of laughter, although in the opinion of certain great philosophers it is not true laughter, but merely similar to it. Likewise, others say that laughter is, as they argue, stimulated in us from a tickling, but leaving these things undecided we shall now ask why it is that no man is able to tickle himself. Vallesius, in Book 5, Chapter 9 of his Disputations, answers that tickling is produced by furtive and secret touching or by fingering of the parts of sharpest sense, present at the extremities of the muscles. These feel pleasure from the touching and the contraction of the fleshy parts, which the swiftly and secretly attendant delight transfers to the heart together with a certain kind of surprise, and thus laughter is produced. But no man is able to touch himself in secret or run up on himself and surprise himself. Therefore no man is able to tickle himself.