Paleontology and poetry: new poem by Ulven in translation

Posted on 23 Oct 2023
Image of Archaeopteryx lithographica.
Archaeopteryx lithographica, specimen displayed at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.Image by H. Raab

Inspired by an ongoing discussion with Matthew Keenan on surrealism and poetry in the Ereignis forum and elsewhere, here is a new translation of one of the earliest published poems by Tor Ulven (1953-1995).

Ulven’s early work is playful, with surprising turns and unusual imagery. The central figure in this collection is the urfugl, or “original bird,” whose shade has given name to the book. The Archaeopteryx or “Urvogel” (German), was a genus of avian dinosaurs. Unlike contemporary birds it had teeth and jaws instead of a beak. The name derives from the ancient Greek ἀρχαῖος (archaīos), ancient, and πτέρυξ (ptéryx), feather or wing. In Ulven’s lifetime Archaeopteryx was regarded as the oldest known bird.

In this poem imagery from paleontology and sorcery meet with Ulven’s unique world-view. Read the poem in full here.

Review of reader in sports philosophy is out

Posted on 11 Oct 2023
Cover of the journal Teaching Philosophy.
Teaching Philosophy 46, no. 3, is out. Image by Philosophy Documentation Center

My review of Jason Holt’s edited collection Philosophy of Sport: Core Readings, Second Edition is out and in print.

My review of Jason Holt’s new edited collection of essays on sports philosophy is out and in print in the journal Teaching Philosophy 46, no. 3. In the review I write that Philosophy of Sport: Core Readings, Second Edition is “a competent attempt at providing college instructors and students with a comprehensive set of key texts in a wide variety of topics in sports philosophy.” The review nods to work by Mike McNamee, R. Scott Kretchmar, Harry Collins and others. Thank you to David Sackris, the journal’s Review Editor, for competent and kind editing!

The journal’s publisher page is here.

New novels: The HoF circle

Posted on 8 Sep 2023. Modified 8 Sep 2023.
Portraits of Jonny Halberg and Agnar Lirhus
Jonny Halberg (left) and Agnar Lirhus. Image by Ingeborg Øien Thorsland.

New novels by House of Foundation authors Jonny Halberg and Agnar Lirhus: somewhat unconventional, fairly good.

In recent weeks, I have been reading two books by authors affiliated with the art collective and and literature center House of Foundation (HoF) in Moss, Norway. In addition to several smaller studios for artists, HoF has a large exhibition space, a nice, well-stocked bookstore (Audiatur) and a cosy café. HoF cooperate with the regional biannual Momentum art festival, in addition to hosting their own temporary high-quality exhibits. To top it all, the folks arrange annual festivals for poetry and music, the Bright Nights [Lyse netter] fest has acheived national recognition as a venue for exciting, cutting-edge acts.

One of the enthusiasts behind this initiative is Jonny Halberg, an author known to chiefly work in “dirty realism.” He has won several prizes for his many novels, short stories, film scripts, and raft of reviews, articles, and essays. This year he released John’s Revelation [Johannes’ åpenbaring] to critical acclaim (there’s a review here [in Norwegian]). The novel is fairly good, but unfortunately burdened by a protagonist who, in the author’s eagerness to construct a Bildungsroman, appears a little obscure and perhaps less-than-credible.

The book presently on my café table is The Dragon [Dragen] by Agnar Lirhus, an author also loosely affiliated with HoF, in addition to working part-time as a language teacher at a local upper secondary school. I previously read with great pleasure a collections of poems by Agnar, Us [Oss, the name naturally plays on the city’s name, Moss], published by HoF. The Dragon is set in a small town that could be Moss. Indeed, everything from descriptions of the local football field to place names, characters and experiences ring familiar to someone familiar with the town. The plot revolves around a young father, Daniel, whose experience of personal turmoil collides with social expectations of a family life governed by routine and predictability.

Daniel has three young children with Henriette, who periodically disappears into a solipsistic drug haze. In the house where they live, Daniel shares bedroom with his partner and boyfriend, the nurse Martin, on the top floor, with separate bedrooms for the two boys, while Henriette stays in a room on the ground floor with their daughter, for as long as Henriette is off drugs. The family constellation is thus unusual, but not improbable. It is the dynamic between the characters that makes the novel interesting and veracious. Most striking are the descriptions of Daniel’s increasing penchant for the bottle. He vents what he finds to be unbearable expectations of him as a father in an increasingly intense alcoholism, also manifest when the children are present; they go to a restaurant to eat pizza together and Daniel has to drink two pints of beer before the food arrives. The descriptions of his budding abuse are distressing, but phrased in alluring and well-crafted language.

The Dragon appears to tell us that we humans are quite simple and predictable beings. As such, the novel finds its place in the the genre we refer to as heimstadsdiktning, poetry of the home stead. Read more about it here [in Norwegian].

Inscriptions 6, no. 2 is out

Posted on 1 Sep 2023. Modified 30 Nov -0001.
Inscriptions 6, no. 2 cover
Inscriptions 6, no. 2 cover.

In the work of Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin we find two distinct approaches to critique. To Adorno a negative dialectic provided the limit of what it was possible to imagine in our time; for Benjamin social critique was animated by a messianic moment to come. The most recent issue of Inscriptions features prominently essays that relate to each of these social philosophers: Anda Pleniceanu, in her essay “Carving out the absence within,” draws on Adorno to suggest a novel apporach to philosophical concept-building while Georgios Tsagdis profoundly investigates Giorgio Agamben’s idea of “form-of-life” as a kind of messianism. Read the editorial that discusses these and other contribution to our latest issue: (open access).

Welcome speech at the 2023 Ereignis Conference

Posted on 12 Jun 2023. Modified 5 Sep 2023.
2023 Ereignis Conference poster

This was my opening speech to this year’s Ereignis Conference, Beyond Dualism, that was held on-site, here in Gdynia, and online.

Hello everyone, and welcome to this third Ereignis conference.

The theme of this year’s conference, Beyond Dualism, resonates with debates that have a long and venerable history in thought. Many of the speakers here will relate their contribution to one of these debates: can we simply split the world between mind and body, nature and culture, national and foreigner, high and low, and so on? Jacques Derrida is known for his uncovering of Western philosophy’s reliance of such opposites: presence/absence, speech/writing, and so on, and then for his particular way of reestablishing thought, what is known as deconstruction. Judith Butler, later, asked whether it is possible for us to continue to rely on a binary or dualist perception of sex and gender, or whether gender, rather, is a constant flux, an event and a happening.

Thus, when we seek to move Beyond Dualism we can address a wide array of contemporary topics in philosophy and cultural theory. In our conference we will begin by connecting the notion of philosophical dualism – most prominently the mind/body split – to recent insights from quantum physics. Werner Heisenberg’s 1927 article on quantum mechanics introduced a new kind of relation between our instruments of measurement and communication and the world they are said to measure: what Heisenberg had found was that the more precisely we measure a particle’s momentum, the less precision we can give to it’s location and vice versa. In his keynote speech Prof. Jørgen Veisland will point out how insights such as Heisenberg’s make particles “disperse in[to] a cloud of probability.” What are the implications, Veisland will ask, of indeterminacy and interrelation on Søren Kierkegaard’s notion of Repetition, and, by implication, to our conception of time, space, and our place in the world?

Lucy Huskinson will tackle the topic of dualism from a different angle: in the history of psychoanalysis, she will show, while the founding texts have sought to go beyond the split of mind from body they have nevertheless tended to rely on their own dualisms, splitting the mind into two-worlds of ego-conscious and unconscious, each with their own ways of Being and rules of behavior. Certainly, she will argue, Sigmund Freud remained wedded to a specific form of Cartesian dualism, manifest, e.g., in a soul fatally isolated from its environment. In her keynote Huskinson will consider how the non-human environment differently figures in the psychoanalysis of Freud and his pupil, C.G. Jung, and then reconsider the significance of the built environment, our architecture, for their theories.

Our first keynote tomorrow will consider how the split between the original and the translated text can be mediated by an act of love. In fact, Jeremy Fernando will argue, there is no love without translation, since any attempt to connect to another being entails that we engage in an act of reading. He will go on to argue that translation should be properly regarded as the most sensitive of readings, as it is constituted as an act of opening oneself up to the possibility of the text, and the possibility of another. Translation and love, while not quite the same thing, are thus potentially inseparable from each other.

Vivek Narayanan, the poet whose recent translation, or “rewiring,” as he prefers, of the ancient Sanskrit epic Ramayana has been hailed by The Times Literary Supplement and Harvard Review, promises to ask questions that are “provocative to the themes of the conference.” His keynote will in part be a performance from After; his talk is entitled “Trapped Between History and the Transcendent.”

Interspersed between these talk will be many papers from delegates with topics ranging from realism and idealism to Benedetto Croce and Thomas Aquinas. We look forward to hearing all of your contributions, and encourage everyone in attendance to participate with questions and comments after each talk.

Now, before we begin the proceedings of this year’s conference allow us to briefly draw your attention to the organising body, Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts. Founded five years ago we are an organisation for research, education, and outreach based in Norway and Poland. We have a global reach and international membership. This is the third edition of our conference. Our educational initiative, Ereignis Institute, offers online courses, live seminars, and mentoring programmes. Our multidisciplinary approach to teaching is founded on a basic trust in students. Our refusal to reduce students to metrics entails that our modules, while offering extensive feedback and discussion, are without exams. We seek those who have a genuine desire to learn.

One person who has been particularly supportive in this burgeoning endeavor has been Prof. Jørgen Veisland of the University of Gdańsk. We are very happy to have been able to publish several of his essays in our peer-reviewed journal Inscriptions, as well as a volume of poetry in translations on our English-language imprint utopos publishing. More recently, Professor Veisland has cooperated with us in building our teaching programme; this coming semester he will be offering what promises to be a highly interesting and novel seminar on Modernism and metaphysics with our learning platform.

Therefore, it is with great pleasure and deep appreciation that we would like to honour you, Professor Veisland, with the title of Honorary Professor at the Ereignis Institute.

Your remarkable leadership, expertise, and guidance have enriched our immensely. On the behalf of the us all, please accept our warmest congratulations and sincere gratitude for your invaluable contributions to our center.

About Torgeir Fjeld
I have taught at many universities in North America, Europe, and Africa, including the University of Minnesota, Roehampton University, the University of Gdańsk, and the University of kwaZulu/Natal. I am Head of the Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts, Publisher at Tankebanen forlag, and Editor-in-Chief of Inscriptions. My latest books are Introducing Ereignis: philosophy, technology, way of life and Perversion’s Beyond: life at the edge of knowledge. I have published many articles, editorials, and op-eds; you can read many of them for free by following links on the articles page. And here is a page entirely dedicated to poetry in translation! This site has a cookie policy.