an arch view of the overarching tendency in recent cultural history.
[Continued from #263]
The second thing that Ford’s post made me think about was how deeply into the past the urge for locating totalities and overarching meaning goes. It’s not something new.
Though now we often try to find the essence of one particular historical era, the desire to discover some underlying unity to everything has been around for a long time.
It was there, for instance, in characters such as George Eliot’s Casaubon, who frittered away his life seeking to discover the Key to All Mythologies, the one guiding principle that would re-integrate what Casaubon believed to be the essential unity of all knowledge at some remote point in the past.
And, of course, it probably goes back further: Christmas is a good time to think about how it’s there in the Judeo-Christian concept of Eden, the Fall, and the Redemption. There’s an ancient, religious urge in the shadowy background of the most postmodern and secular of scholarly pursuits. What was one becomes fragmented — we want to find a way to make it whole again.
Perhaps the only radically-parallel argument that remains truly valid is this: that the dream of uncovering essences never vanishes. Even in poststructural, postmodern, postwhateverism, we may jump off the radical-parallel argument bars, watch them fragment into pieces, call for their abolition, content ourselves with a little spot of safety on the net below, or enjoy the freefall, but somewhere, somehow the drawing of parallels will go on and on.