Life[ edit ] Cavell was born to a Jewish family in Atlanta, Georgia. His mother, a locally renowned pianist, trained him in music from his earliest days. Austin , whose teaching and methods "knocked him off Before completing his Ph. In , along with the documentary filmmaker Robert H. Gardner , Cavell helped found the Harvard Film Archive , to preserve and present the history of film.
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This is a close reading by the philosopher Stanley Cavell of 7 films from the 30s and 40s which he calls "comedies of remarriage". Admittedly, I love the films in this genre independently in no small part because of the frequency with which Katharine Hepburn turns up in these , but what makes this book spectacular is how it fills a largely unnoticed gap, which I believe exists, in the way we are able to talk about love and marriage. I try to lay out the background in part I, and you can skip it if you just want to know about the book itself.
And yet, here it is. Part I: My idiosyncratic topography of ideas The traditional conservative picture of marriage, if we follow Genesis, can be thought of as the union of man and woman, the literal becoming of one flesh.
Unfortunately, considering that this involved two distinct individuals, the union usually called for the elimination of the woman as distinct, and her subsumption under the authority of man. Naturally, with the ascension of feminism, this view grew increasingly less credible. Instead we had two paths- the first embraced a kind of radical particularism, where individual relationships could be studied, as in literature, but no generalizations allowed to be drawn.
Second, it started using the language of power and oppression, somewhat exclusively and obsessively. Our pop songs are quite adept at describing feelings of attraction and need and heartbreak, but are suspiciously silent on what happens in between. Consider for instance the cultural debate on same-sex marriage. The left actually adopted the laughable position that changing marriage norms would affect no one who was heterosexual, as though fundamental changes in the meanings and institutions by which people take their bearings would have no effect on them.
Meanwhile, the conservatives who correctly saw the scope of the change, foolishly blamed same-sex couples instead of recognizing that it was the lost legitimacy of their own worldview which got people to see same-sex marriage as legitimate in the first place, making their "critique" less diagnosis and more epiphenomenon. I see this book as an attempt in filling this gap. The idea of a conversation proves fruitful for Cavell, precisely because it is both determinate and indeterminate enough to be both general, and yet leave room for specifics.
It requires two individuals, who are bound to a common purpose or activity. Their distinctness is required to maintain a conversation, which is after all an exchange, and yet there needs to be commonness for a conversation to be intelligible, and the conversation itself can create commonness and differences when sustained over time.
The people in the conversation are in one sense cut away from the world, but are also situated in it, and "talking" about the world and themselves in it.
A conversation is static, in that it remains what it is, and yet can be novel and exciting as well. On the genre: "The tracking of the comedic to its roots in the everyday. I intend it to account for several features of the genre that differentiate it from other comic forms. For example, the stability of the conclusion is not suggested by the formula "they lived happily ever after" but rather requires words to the effect that this is the way they lived, where "this" covers of course whatever one is prepared to call the conclusion of the work but covers it as itself a summary or epitome of the work as a whole.
There is no other life for them, and this one suffices. On the dynamism at play in marriage and remarriage: Again, I have pointed several times to the absence, or the compromise, of the festival with which classical comedy may be expected to conclude, say a wedding In attacking the magical or mechanical view of the sacraments, Luther says, "All our life should be baptism.
When Lucy acknowledges to Aunt Patsy her love for Jerry after all, what she says is, "We had some grand laughs. But a run of laughs within life; finding occasions in the way we are together. He is the one with whom that is possible for me, crazy as he is; that is the Awful truth. On how a sustained conversation cleaves a world for the pair, a home from which others are cut off: Their guest is one whose value they disagree about, but they dispute it within a family agreement - within, I wish to teach us to say, a conversation - a profundity and complexity the guest cannot begin to fathom.
The kicks on the shin Hildy gives Walter under the table are familiar gestures of propriety and intimacy; and the pair communicate not only by way of feet and hand signals but in a lingo and tempo, and about events present and past, that Bruce can have no part in. They simply appreciate one another more than either of them appreciates anyone else, and they would rather be appreciated by one another more than by anyone else. They just are at home with one another, whether or not they can live together under the same roof, that is, find a roof they can live together under.
On the form of the ideal, the conversation, which remains independent of content: What this pair does together is less important than the fact that they do whatever it is together, that they know how to spend time together, even that they would rather waste time together than do anything else - except that no time they are together could be wasted. Hatted, as for departure, away from us, they resume their adventure of desire, their pursuit of happiness, sometimes talking, sometimes not, always in conversation.
But a challenge to what? Independence from what? To and from the very fact that a conversation has resumed, and that while that is cause for happiness, that happiness is not to be presumed upon? Something, I think, like that. The humor, and the sadness, of remarriage - comedies can be said to result from the fact that we have no good answer to that question. It is a premise of farce that marriage kills romance.
It is a project of the genre of remarriage to refuse to draw a conclusion from this premise but rather to turn the tables on farce, to turn marriage itself into romance, into adventure, which for Walter and Hildy means to preserve within it something of the illicit, to find as it were a moral equivalent of the immoral.
Pursuits of Happiness Quotes
Human thought possesses for Stanley Cavell both a tragic and a comic dimension. There exists indeed an acknowledged link between tragedy and philosophy but the connection between philosophy and comedy seems to common perception, at least obscure. Our whole philosophical tradition begins according to Plato with a tragic conflict between the philosopher and the polis. In examining himself and investigating his fellow citizens, Socrates has performed a critical service to his city.
Pursuits of Happiness
They originate from two ways of looking at ourselves purauits are both indispensable and yet also incompatible. No trivia or quizzes yet. We can read his book as evidence for the weakening of this classical conception over the course of the last century and a half — a process that is by no means completed but one that has already begun to undermine all our traditional philosophical conceptions of the nature of the political. A third source of social conflict derives from the fact that human beings are at all times joined together by multiple social bonds and unions and that these impose on them different and potentially conflicting demands. But that insight proves, in turn, deleterious for Cavell for it leads him to neglect the tragic dimension of politics which Weber recognizes so clearly. We may call in this context also on Hannah Arendt who wrote: According to this formula Greek happinese is concerned precisely with the conflict between power and ultimate ends. Our tradition has always seen political thought as an effort to provide formulas for human coexistence, foundations for the state, and apriori principles of political action and political judgment.
CAVELL PURSUITS OF HAPPINESS PDF
The Same and Different. Three years ago, Cavell himself addressed the question, and directly, in The Claim of Reason. Green Films Read, highlight, and take notes, across web, tablet, and phone. Comedy of remarriage films Film genres.