The Romance of Scholarship


“Love that discourses in my mind" (Dante, Pugatorio, Canto II)…. Thus, since philosophy & love are so dialectically intermingled on Re-Vision Radio, everybody knows, in the final mythopoetic analysis, that nobody knows whether the philosophers are singing the praises of love or the lovers are discoursing on the virtues of philosophy. (from Re-Vision Radio Manifesto & Visionary Recital)


Scholarship usually means the academic methods and discipline in pursuit of knowledge. It is also the knowledge resulting from study and research in a particular field. Thus, a scholarly work is a professionally done piece of research, erudite and meticulous in its mastery of the facts of the subject at hand. In the Western world, and especially in Anglo-American world, scholarship operates within the framework of rational discourse governed by the "reality principle," the opposite of the “pleasure principle” or eros—myth, imagination, and love.


Yet, I would argue that there can be a "Romance of Scholarship”—an “Orphic Scholarship”—, which is an alternative tradition where scholarship becomes a kind of imaginative expression in the service of eros.


Back in the revolutionary mid-sixties, Prof N. O. Brown (UCSC) had challenged the entire structure of Anglo-American scholarship, identifying its roots in what he termed "Protestant literalism," which denies symbolism. He describes it as "the crux is the reduction of meaning to a single meaning—univocation." He takes it right back to Martin Luther, whose German word for "unification" meant the "single, simple, solid and stable meaning" of scripture. Thus Prof. Brown makes the equation: "Protestant literalism is modern scholarship." And modern scholarship, with its reductionism to single meaning, is, according to Brown, made up of a "new hierarchy of scribes, controlling interpretation, the higher scholarship." In this world of protestant literalism, Prof Brown says that scholastic rigor becomes “rigor mortis.” In other words, it is ultimately ruled by thanatos, the death-principle and not the life-principle of eros. Prof. Brown’s own alternative to this scholarship of “Protestant literalism” was embodied his 1966 book, written in an aphoristic style, Love’s Body.


There have been earlier dissenters from the academic ranks that could be examples of what Prof. Brown would put in place of the scholarship of “Protestant literalism.”


"The scholarship was a metaphor, as it were, for what I was actually doing, in my researches on Clark Ashton Smith. [Clark Ashton Smith, 1893 – 1961, was a self-educated American poet, sculptor, painter and author of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories. As a poet, Smith is grouped with the West Coast Romantics, alongside Ambrose Bierce, Joaquin Miller, Sterling, Nora May French, and others, and remembered as 'The Last of the Great Romantics' and 'The Bard of Auburn'.] I began as a scholar, but the scholarship became the key to unknown realms, about which I wanted to know more, and the only way I could do it was by reading these imaginative projections of other people…. So I perceived myself as this latter-day adventurer in the realms of scholarship and poetry." –Donald Sydney-Fryer, 8/22/12


Then there’s this from Victor Hugo: “"Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure.”


The GS's favorite academic dissenter is Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom he identifies as his mentor—the “Orphic Scholar”:


“Ah ye old ghosts! ye builders of dungeons in the air! why do I ever allow you to encroach on me a moment; a moment to win me to your hapless company? In every week there is some hour when I read my commission in every cipher of nature, and I know that I was made for another office, a professor of the Joyous Science, a detector & delineator of occult harmonies & unpublished beauties, a herald of civility, nobility, learning, & wisdom; an affirmer of the One Law, yet as one who should affirm it in music or dancing, a priest of the Soul yet one who would better love to celebrate it through the beauty of health & the harmonious power of music.”


So what is “The Romance of Scholarship”? "The Romance of Scholarship" is an alternative tradition, where scholarship becomes a kind of imaginative expression and thus a kind of art-form in its own right. It is not in service of the literalism of traditional "Protestant scholarship," which is in service of the principle of thanatos (what Wordsworth called "murders to dissect)," but in the service of the “pleasure principle,” of eros, which seeks not just analysis but synthesis and vision. Thus, the scholarly apparatus can be used for non-literal applications; for symbolic meaning—like a “musical essay.”


The Romance of Scholarship is in fact practiced by the Gypsy Scholar as “Orphic Scholar.” Re-Vision Radio's Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack—with its "flowers of discourse”—plays both aspects of the psyche: both reason and imagination; both critical/scholarly intellect and intuitive/poetic heart, academic research and mystical insearch, secular hermeneutics and sacred hermetic/kabbalistic interpretation, scholarly rigor and poetic reverie, painstaking precise phrasing and euphoric poetic diction, Apollonian clarity and Dionysian obscurity, philosophical questioning and romantic questing, philosophical aptitude and the musical amplitude of heightened discourse. This issues in the paradoxical reuniting of the Western head and heart—a Romantic commingling of a "sensuous reason" and a "feeling intellect," thereby synthesizing the left and right brain: "If my heart could do my thinking / And my head begin to feel / I would look upon the world anew / And know what's truly real." (Van Morrison) It’s the great Platonic synthesis of logos and mythos; between the earlier mytho-mystical, as it was transmitted through the Greek Mystery Religions, and the newer rationalist development in Philosophy that had broken away from it: "Intellectual rigor [logos] and Olympian inspiration [mythos] no longer stood opposed.”


Because of Socrates' and Plato's emphasis on eros ("erotic mania") as the driving force of the philosopher's (the "lover of wisdom") quest, Re-Vision Radio's "PhiloSophy" is an "erotic metaphysics" (a commingling of "love and ideas”)—“a simultaneous knowing and loving by means of imagining.” (James Hillman) And because Re-Vision Radio is about loving Ideas—“falling in love with wisdom" (Dante’s ”Lady Philosophia”)—, it's Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack is a union of knowing and desire: "You can call my love Sophia / I call my love Philosophy." (Van Morrison) This is why the Gypsy Scholar re-visions "PhiloSophy" as a great Western Quest-Romance.


And because Philosophy is (as admitted by Plato) a form of “play”—an artistic endeavor—, it makes the scholar of philosophy a scholar-artist-musician, who is distinguished by his or her ability to synthesize and “play with knowledge—to create a collage of ideas or intellectual mind-jazz.”


Practicing his own form of the twelfth-century Troubadour "Dialectic of Love” (“Love that discourses in my mind”), in mixing “love and ideas,” the Gypsy Scholar seeks to become a “Troubadour of Knowledge.”