vendredi 31 juillet 2015

International Authors: Carter Kaplan

Dr Carter Kaplan is currently Professor of English at Belmont College in Ohio.  He teaches research writing, public speaking, introductory courses in literature, American and British literature surveys, Ethics, and Introduction to Philosophy.  He is also Chair of the Faculty Council where his role is to hold monthly meetings with faculty, and work with the academic Dean and VP to improve instruction, as well as advocate for faculty.

In what leisure time that remains, Dr Kaplan runs International Authors, a small literary press.  Its most notorious publication is the annual anthology of avant-garde writings, Emanations.  These appear to be in direct line from Kaplan's own literary influences which include Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Homer, Lucian, Rabelais, Milton, Burton, Locke, Wittgenstein, Swift, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Clemens, Austen, Blake, Conrad, Nabokov, Lovecraft, Kubrick, Fellini, Moorcock, Peacock, and Shelley. Dr Kaplan is the author of Critical Synoptics: Menippean Satire and the Analysis of Intellectual Mythology, the novel Tally-Ho, Cornelius!, the Aristophanic comedy Diogenes, and he edits the International Authors annual anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays, Emanations, now in its third year.

I asked Dr Kaplan about teaching philosophy and International Authors.

PML:  As teaching is a subject that involves us both – although in very different fields – I was wondering whether you had a philosophy towards teaching philosophy.

CK:  I embrace a historical approach to the field. Some philosophers might say that I don’t properly teach philosophy but rather that I teach meta-philosophy. My response to them: “Is that a statement of your philosophy, or a statement of your politics?”  My PhD dissertation and my academic publications are in satire and analytic philosophy. In my view, the philosopher’s role is not to create new knowledge.  Leave that to the scientists following the skeptical-empirical method.

PML:  So what is the philosopher’s task?

CK:  It is to clear away the conceptual confusion that leads to asking philosophically meaningless questions.

PML:  So certain philosophers ask philosophically meaningless questions?

CK:  I shall cut to the chase:  When it comes to Continental philosophy, I am circumspect—that is, I believe Continental philosophy represents the preface to a kind of authoritarian corporate technocracy.  I try to teach students that they should share this circumspection.  It is not far off the mark to say that I am giving them a political education in Jeffersonian notions of bourgeois class struggle, and I am trying to convince them to join the bourgeoisie. Not of course that I want them to become drastically middle-class.  I think it is a truism of America in the 21st century that the alternative to joining the bourgeoisie is poverty, corruption, endless war, and so on.

PML:  Do you mean that Continental philosophy is somehow anti-American?  Or seeks to impose un-Constitutional authority on America?

CK:  A provocative image is that of a zoo in Singapore, fifty years hence, in which Americans are kept in a cage. Zoo visitors queue up before a vending machine that dispenses Big Macs. The curious and vaguely amused visitors place coins in the machine, then toss the hamburgers in the cage to feed the Americans. But of course we shouldn’t limit this vision to Americans. Today, most of the human race is heading for that cage.

PML:  I’ve read similar pieces of satire in International Authors publications...

CK: Satire is an “institutionally inappropriate” discourse.  Nevertheless, properly contextualized and observed clinically, satire represents a powerful tool of critical analysis.

PML: And political analysis. Have you a political vision?

CK: Strictly speaking, no.  But that is a good question. It is likely International Authors will be regarded as a response to the realities of globalism, in particular the place of the English language in an emerging global “system” (or lack of system) and an acknowledgement that traditional liberal notions of human rights are being challenged by new models and theories, many of which favor authoritarian and technocratic systems of planning and control.  We could call our project “Global Authors”, and of course that name highlights the distinction I am describing.  That is, in our emerging global culture—itself driven in many ways by the cresting wave of English-language hegemony—it seems wise to preserve our traditional cultures and views, not so much for cultural or aesthetic reasons, but rather as a brake upon a movement of cultural homogenization that could have many negative economic and political ramifications. We are not Global Authors, we are International Authors.

PML:  What about the aesthetic aspects of the project -- beyond the purely political? 

CK: Thanks, this is more to the point. When it comes to aesthetics, our project is moving paradoxically (perhaps) in a direction towards greater “cultural” unity. Consider the role of myth and ceremonial poetry in our anthropology—a phenomenon similar in all cultures—and politics now aside, here (to me, to my IA colleagues) is where the project really becomes exciting.

PML:  Where do you draw your inspiration?

CK:  Our notion is not so much drawn from the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus as it is taken from the aesthetic project of William Blake, in which the interacting “data points” of poetic expression and visual experience become the matter for aesthetic development, and the generation of emotional and philosophical understanding.  Characterized as a field, International Authors is working along the mythographic vanguard of the human imagination, feeling “ahead” so to speak.

PML:  Alongside the vanguard?  Not as part of it?

CK:   We are not operating under the philosophical or emotional weight of the vanguard—we are not literary shamans awestruck and self-impressed by the emotional thunderclaps that herald our creative activity.  Rather we are very coolly looking over the vanguard, as if in looking ahead (and into) our imaginative and emotional activity we can gain insight into where the human race is, and where it is going.

PML:  A literary attempt to foretell the future?

CK:  Future prognostication, maybe; but the project is more properly characterized as an attempt to survey the ways in which human beings, from year to year and around the world, are viewing themselves, and how human beings are viewing what’s just appearing over the horizon.

PML: Would it be right to say that certain pieces published in Emanations might be categorized as Science Fiction or fantasy...

CK:  We share close affinities with science fiction and fantasy, but it is more accurate to say we are engaged in a project of experimental and ecstatic technique combined with the scholarship and deep historical understanding that characterizes the Academy, though at the same time we are firmly in the aesthetic and emotional camp of the people who follow after Milton. We look like flamboyant Blake people, but we are actually pursuing the project of Locke—that is, we are immersed in an effort to quietly bring people together in a spirit of tolerance and open inquiry to uncover (though not necessarily solve) the really important questions.   But this is my take, mind you. There are nineteen other members sitting on the Editorial Board.  Each has his or her own views. It is a collaborative vision. What happens with the press is up in the air, and properly so.

PML: What kinds of books are you publishing?

CK: Our anthology, Emanations is doing much to shape what is happening.  We have a novella from India, Writer’s Block by Vitasta Raina, who is an architect based in Mumbai. Set in the near future in a sprawling Indian city, her novella presents the visions and dreams of diverse intellectuals responding to various political, moral, and artistic challenges.  We have a critical edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

PML:  A “critical edition”?

CK:  The volume features a lengthy Afterword, which I wrote. The project is intended to introduce Hawthorne’s great novel to the international community. The afterword attempts to tease out the philosophical and aesthetic themes that drive the story, which incidentally characterize some of the trends emerging in our other publications—matters of artistic character, poetic conception, ecstatic method, aesthetic preference…

PML: I want to ask you about that.  Meanwhile, your list is diverse.

CK:  It is developing that way. Just recently, we published Dario Rivarossa’s study Dante was a Fantasy Writer, which features one-hundred colored drawings (one for each canto in the Divine Comedy) by the author. Very soon, Elkie Riches’ novel Reclamation will be available.  It is a complex and ironic work that draws together shamanism, environmentalism, militarism, and corporate trends in governance—though this summary does injustice to the novel itself, which is remarkably lucid, supple, and literate. 

PML: Are you leading a “movement”?

CK:  Lots of Blakean “desire” accompanies our project and our appearance, to be sure. But this is mere mechanism, aesthetic fabric, sexual identity, and sexual force.  At the most basic level the project is driven by a rugged aspiration to make books that are worth reading.

PML:  Can you speak a little about the origins of International Authors and Emanations?

CK:  International Authors was created simultaneously with Emanations, which was initially created in response to the dissolution of Prototype X, a science fiction magazine that several years ago emerged from discussions on the website of British novelist Michael Moorcock. The community moved on in other directions, but it was a terrific experiment—itself a curious online phenomenon worth study and explication.  Much of the correspondence that shaped the effort is recorded in the “Enclave” forum of Mr Moorcok’s website.  As a participant, I learned a great deal about on-line collaboration.   

PML:  So when Prototype X traced off you moved onto Emanations.   But why the ambition to set up a publishing company at all?

CK:  Emanations and International Authors is a response to the need of post-post-grads to do something significant: we are professionals with literary ambitions, and academicians who remain intellectually curious and who seek creative streams that run “outside” the channels of the established disciplines and fields.

PML: And Emanations and International Authors is a reaction to those academic channels?

CK:  We aren’t reacting to or against anything. We are not an anti-academic group—after all, we have pursued the burdensome process of assembling and maintaining a board of editorial advisors—but we recognize the need for a publishing project that has an agile, indeed protean flexibility to address issues that are too specialized, too irrational, or too idiosyncratic to treat conventionally. That said, as an avant-garde project, we remain circumscribed by our standards, our need to invent, and our desire to take things seriously. We proceed with a great deal of deliberation—not so much in our community, but alone at our desks and in our studios. Through our work, we are seeking not only the creation of something new, but the psychological and epistemological conditions under which something new can emerge.

PML:  One thing I found intriguing about Emanations is that it is divided into three parts – fiction, poetry, and academic papers, or, as you call them, “themes”.  I think it's the first time ever that the latter have been published with fiction and poetry.  Why did you opt for this?

CK:  I cannot reasonably explain why Emanations is divided into three parts. Rather than the apparatus of an explanation, my thoughts wish to intermingle with the effusive matter of understanding. Why do people get married? I should like to suggest it is simply love for the art of the tale, affection for the feel of verse, and a celebration of the illusion of theme.

PML:  As editors, which writings would you choose to reject?

CK:  As editors, we reject nothing. Time and money alone limit the material we are able to publish.  Otherwise, International Authors would publish everything that is submitted to us.

PML:  Really?

CK:  Absolutely. You have my word on that...  In the meantime, we are simply interested in material that seeks to say something new in a new way.

PML:  Where do you want to go with IA? Say, in five years?

CK:  I do not know where we will go with International Authors, and, really, I expect this will take care of itself. I know this seems a weak posture in light of our professed desire to use imagination and art as a method of prognosis and future-telling.  Of that great crack in space-time called “tomorrow”, I shall simply say something very true to my heart: I see us with great bags of money, driving Ferraris, engaging innovative architectural theories in the development of exclusive tropical resorts, sponsoring boundless art shows that cater to Russian oligarchs and Mexican billionaires, discreetly hosting comfortable parties on elegant yachts, producing obscure films, marrying movie stars, living on private islands…  What we need to do next is find a grant.


PML:  Thank you for your time today, Carter.  Good luck with the project.

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