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  • Pinter Prize

    Posted by Ginny on October 13th, 2005 (All posts by )

    Emptiness within emptiness may be Pinter’s specialty, but now he has a Nobel Prize to keep him company.
    Update:
    Terry Teachout, in the WSJ (neither he nor they leftis), praises Pinter, while noting the reputation squandered in the last few years by the Nobel committee in his “Another Left Turn at Stockholm.”.

    New York Times: ”Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles,” the academy said.” The Times observes that “Usually enclosed in one room, they [characters] organize their lives as a sort of grim game and their actions often contradict their words. Gradually, the layers are peeled back to reveal the characters’ nakedness.” (Am I still sleepy or does this article seem to not be written all that well – for instance, when did Knut Ahnlund, 82, resign?)

    Update: AL Daily adds more. (Earlier I had obits, sorry.)

    In my youth Pinter’s scripts pulled me in. His emptiness, like Antonioni’s, spoke to my aimless youth during the late sixties and seventies. But the attraction of the abyss they created seems to pull less strongly as I age. Is this idiosyncratic, superficial and personal – or do others feel that difference?

     

    10 Responses to “Pinter Prize”

    1. Jim Miller Says:

      Prize or reprimand? I have started calling the Nobel Peace Prize a reprimand, since in recent years it has gone to those who have damaged the prospects for peace. I have had the same thought about the literature prize, from the descriptions I have read about recent winners.

      I’ve never seen or read a play of Pinter’s so I don’t have an opinion on his work. But I would be interested to hear the thoughts of those who have. Is this a prize or a reprimand?

      (Some Pulitzer prizes are best thought of as reprimands, too.)

    2. Ginny Says:

      He was most prolific between 1957 & 1965, so I suspect his post-9/11 anti-war stuff was part (maybe most) of his charm for these guys. He was an original though – if you are switching stations and come upon a script he wrote, you can pick up on it immediately. He managed to maneuver silences into the scripts in ways that were distinctive and sometimes powerful. People like Stoppard were very influenced by him.

      But I haven’t seen anything for decades – so I’m not the person to answer your question.

      This story, however, looks stranger the more I look at it. Like couldn’t they put a paragraph together that would make the fact today is Yom Kippur seem relevant – or leave it out? This whole piece looks like it is facts as a student who needs ritalin would arrange them.

    3. Robert Schwartz Says:

      If I wasn’t sure that the Swedes are clueless, I would accuse them of Anti-Semitism, releasing this on Yom Kippur. Pinter is a complete moonbat, a British Noam Chomsky — only he never made any useful contributions to mathematics. Pinter is as we say a “shande fur die goyim.” (a scandal in front of the gentiles).

    4. Ginny Says:

      Schwartz – I’m not sure if your allusion is to Chomsky or not, but if it was – he’s a linguist. His ideas about deep structures were exciting before he went off the deep end. My husband & I met in a seminar on Chomsky – we were excited by his ideas about deep structure which still have some validity; of course, he wasn’t such a moonbat then. (Rewritten for clarity.)

      On the other hand, Pinter came through Prague the spring after the Velvet Revolution. He was cynical and aloof; he gave a formal talk to the British studies faculty at Charles. My husband was struck by the depth of his extraordinary negativity; he saw the west as offering nothing, standing in the midst of one of the great moments of liberation in the twentieth century. He predicted that life would become meaningless in a culture that was rapidly westernizing.

    5. Sam Boogliodemus Says:

      I’m surprised they didn’t give the ‘Peace Prize’ to Cindy Sheehan.

    6. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Sam: Oooo. That’s going to leave a mark.

      Ginny: Yes that is one and the same Chomsky, not the cantor at the conservative shul up the street. In the 1950s he did some work on formal grammars and established some important results in computer science. For instance he and another fellow demonstrated the equivalence of something called context-free grammars and push-down stack machines (a formalism used by computer programs). You will see references to Chomsky Hierarchies in lecture notes for theoretical CS courses posted allover the internet.

      After that he became a political activist, a shande fur die goyim and Exhibit A in the case against academic tenure.

      IMHO, his influence on linguistics (as opposed to computer science) was baleful. Before Chomsky, linguists had to go to remote villages where there was no running water and spend months learning obscure languages from toothless old women. That was hard work, dirty and dangerous. Furthermore it meant they were out of town during the universities budget planning cycle. Just imagine returning from 18 months in the Amazon only to find that your office had been relocated to the basement.

      After Chomsky, they could sit around in air conditioned offices, shag undergraduates, and write papers about non-sense sentences. Thousands of languages face extinction unrecorded, and these guys are too busy to do anything about it.

      Chomsky’s theories about “deep structures” were simply our old friend the platonic forms in new clothes. Unfortunately, he has altered their content so many times that it is hard to know which version to attack.

    7. Ginny Says:

      Robert,
      I really don’t agree with you. While descriptive linguistics is an admirable discipline and formally recording languages before they become extinct an important task from an anthropological viewpoint, the approach that Chomsky pretty much singlehandedly started can be valuable. We are sign-making animals; understanding how we develop, communicate, and structure those signs is an important window on how our minds work. Words and consciousness are linked throughout history; in the beginning was the word, we say. Chomsky weaves the web of a paranoid when he tries to connect historical events, but connecting languages – accepting & rejecting his theories about how we structure our language – begins with quite useful insights and leads (sometimes) to quite useful observations. The Linguistic alliance with cognitive psychology seems at least as worthy as its alliance with anthropology. The fact that linguists, not unlike other academics, may abuse tenure, seduce students, & generally indulge in the silliest of politics does not mean that linguistics itself is not a worthwhile discipline.

    8. Scotus Says:

      The dispute between Ginny and Robert is the ancient one between Plato and Aristotle, i.e. between the rationalists and empiricists. To wit: How much of human knowledge and abilities are innate and how much are learned. Chomsky’s initial (and best) lingustic work certainly leans in the direction of Plato and the rationalists, but not, I beleive, absurdly so. I think one can develop Chomsky’s views about language into a fairly moderate position. The same, of course, cannot in any way be said about his political views. Perhaps his rationalist tendencies do explain, in part, his political extremism. That is, because he tends to value the innate over the experiential, he sees the world entirely through a cockeyed ideological prism. Throughout history, rationalists (e.g. Hobbes) have tended to support what they considered benevolent dictatorships, while empiricists (e.g. Locke) have tended to favor democracy.

    9. Robert Schwartz Says:

      To Ginny:

      “the approach that Chomsky pretty much singlehandedly started can be valuable.”

      I think I concede that much. The question is valuable to whom and for what? Its value to its practitioners is obvious and I cited it. OTOH, I don’t think that anything that Chomsky or his disciples have done after the 1950s has the slightest value to anybody else.

      “We are sign-making animals; understanding how we develop, communicate, and structure those signs is an important window on how our minds work.”

      I can imagine scientific investigation of how language arises from the brain, how it develops etc. But sitting in your office reasoning about nonsense sentences is mental masturbation. Do something useful with your time. Blog, or engage in pointless, incessant barking.

      “in the beginning was the word, we say.”

      Speak for yourself. I am not a Christian.

      “The Linguistic alliance with cognitive psychology seems at least as worthy as its alliance with anthropology.”

      Real empirical psychology is a science and spending your days in the jungles of Peru is hard work. Sitting in your office and doing Chomskyian linguistics is neither.

      “The fact that linguists, not unlike other academics, may abuse tenure, seduce students, & generally indulge in the silliest of politics does not mean that linguistics itself is not a worthwhile discipline.”

      Yes, but they won’t do any of those things, while they are in the jungles of Peru. Idle hands are the devil’s play things, and Chomskyian linguistics creates idle hands.

      To Scotus:

      “The dispute between Ginny and Robert is the ancient one between Plato and Aristotle, i.e. between the rationalists and empiricists. To wit: How much of human knowledge and abilities are innate and how much are learned.”

      As I said: “Chomsky’s theories about “deep structures” were simply our old friend the platonic forms in new clothes.” Of course that war really ended when David Hume dynamited the rationalist view.

      “Chomsky’s initial (and best) linguistic work certainly leans in the direction of Plato and the rationalists, but not, I believe, absurdly so. I think one can develop Chomsky’s views about language into a fairly moderate position.”

      Actually, I think his initial position was untenable and has admitted as much, sub-silentio, by constant retrenching.

      “The same, of course, cannot in any way be said about his political views. Perhaps his rationalist tendencies do explain, in part, his political extremism. That is, because he tends to value the innate over the experiential, he sees the world entirely through a cockeyed ideological prism. Throughout history, rationalists (e.g. Hobbes) have tended to support what they considered benevolent dictatorships, while empiricists (e.g. Locke) have tended to favor democracy.”

      Leave us not pick on Hobbes, however your point is entirely correct. The philosophy of the left (Marx and Rousseau) is explicitly Platonic. The communist paradise that Marx sought to create was described in The Republic. Chomsky’s linguistic theories and politics are of a piece.

    10. Ginny Says:

      I came back to put up a link to Angie Schultz’s entertaining Pinter discussion and see Robert Schwartz has been working away (& in an interesting manner) in my absence.

      It’s late, but actually I don’t think I’m up to arguing with Robert anyway. I’m not all that sure he’s not right and frankly haven’t looked at Chomsky since 1971,(probably before most of our readers were born) except to listen to him rave a couple of times on C-span before I could change channels.

      On the other hand, Robert, I hope you aren’t right: my daughter is A.B.D. in linguistics and I was hoping she had a future. She doesn’t need to be discouraged from finishing that dissertation, either.

      Also, I always figured Chomsky was good at seeing connections – like in deep structure and between America’s various villanies. The problem is, in both caes, he leaves out so much that he’s only describing a quite partial realilty and seeming to think it is a whole. (Like our build up of weapons in western Europe in the late forties – it doesn’t make any sense, of course, if you ignore the Warsaw Pact.) And that approach does remind me of the complicated tissue of reasoning of the paranoid schizophrenic I had as a roommate once (even before 1971).