Capacity for Development: New Solutions to Old Problems

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A breakthrough is desperately needed, because these killings show no signs of stopping. Ruth suddenly finds the curriculum she has taught for nigh on 15 years worryingly out of vogue. It seems these days the kids no longer need teaching; they need telling.

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As the scandal flares up and attracts the unwelcome eye of the local evangelical Church, the appeasing high-school principal forces her into advocating a pro-abstinence agenda in the classroom that is at odds with all conventional wisdom. On the other hand, it is a syllabus change which Tim Mason, recovering addict, local football coach, and recent convert to the same plaintiff Church, should consider a victory.

But his new found faith is constantly put to the test by the temptations of his former wayward life, forcing him into grand, defensive statements of purpose. Three ways to place a hold on these items: Phone 03 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 5pm. Momentarily, inside the complex musical, rhythmic, grammatical, and syntactical labyrinth of these sentences, these surprising intrusions become unmanageable and pantomime physical shock that may or may not have any relation to the plot. Yet one cannot help but feel that the shock value is less intended as an aid to representation as it is used as a striking force directed at us, the readers.

But the way it is here deployed suggests excess while its rudeness simultaneously mocks the conventional eloquence established by the first signature sentence. While the topic of reference remains controversial, it is generally held that the conditions of a reference include a set of grammatical and contextual constraints on the capacity of an expression to perform this function.

The idea of reference involves an existential presupposition: one can only refer to something that is held to exist in the world. By thus exploiting the referring properties of language, the mimetic text ensures that process of recognition whereby the reader connects the world produced by the text with the world of which she herself has direct or indirect knowledge.

Reference, then, belongs to mimesis as part of a general process of reminding, a recognizing of the object as the same again; a work of literary mimesis maintains its intelligibility when the referential language used re-presents in ways that keep the criteria of identify intact. To the extent that such an agreement is unsupported by the representation or becomes impossible, the realistic effect is compromised. In other words, by suppressing and excluding anything arbitrary or fanciful and instead favouring descriptive verisimilitude, the mimetic enterprise reinforces rather than contradicts what is generally accepted as truthful and relevant without distortion or overt or conspicuous stylization.

Stated somewhat differently, the mimetic enterprise gains its force from the way its use of referential language encourages certitude about the bond between the object of knowledge and the discourse about it, by the many ways it reinforces rather than contradicts our sense of congruity between the signified and the sign. As a consequence, mimesis tempts the intellect into believing that what is copied is the extent of the real.

But while the similarity and appropriateness of the sign to the signified are the criteria for mimetic effectiveness, in The Last September, similitude is often rejected in favour of jarring and unsettling inaccuracies and improprieties. To the south, below them, the demesne trees of Danielstown made a dark formal square like a rug on the green country.

In their hearts like a dropped pin the grey glazed roof reflecting the sky lightly glinted. She wondered they were not smothered; then wondered still more that they were not afraid.

Far from here, too, their isolation became apparent. The house seemed to be pressing down low in apprehension, hiding its face, as though it had her vision of where it was. It seemed to huddle its trees close in fright and amazement at the wise light lovely unloving country, the unwilling bosom whereon it was set.

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Fields gave back light to the sky — the hedges netting them over thinly and penetrably — as though the sheen of grass were but a shadow on water, a breath of colour clouding the face of light. Rivers, profound in brightness, flowed over beds of grass. The cabins lifting their pointed white ends, the pink and yellow farms were but half opaque; cast doubtfully on their fields the shadow of living. Square cattle moved in fields like saints, with a mindless certainty.

Single trees, on a rath, at the turn of the road, drew up light at their roots. Only the massed trees — like a rug to dull some keenness, break some contact between self and senses perilous to the routine of living — only the trees of the demesne were dark and exhaled darkness. Down among them, dusk would stream up the paths ahead, lie stagnant on lawns, would mount in the dank of garden, heightening the walls, dulling the borders as by a rain of ashes.

Seen from above, the house in its pit of trees seemed a very reservoir of obscurity; from the doors one must come out stained with it. And the kitchen smoke, lying over the vague trees doubtfully, seemed the very fumes of living. On the bright sky opposite, Mr.


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She took the curves of Mount Isabel Drive with a rattle: the trap rocked on its axle, the traces creaked. Beyond the gates light lay flat and yellow along the hedges where brambles showered, hard red blackberries knocked on the spokes and swung back, shining. She took the short way, over a shoulder of mountain; the light pink road crushed under the wheels like sugar. Coming up out from the lanes, they bathed an hour or so in the glare of space.

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Height had the quality of depth: as they mounted they seemed to be striking deeper into the large mild crystal of an inverted sea. Out of the distance everywhere, pointless and unrelated, space came like water between them, slipping and widening. They receded from one another into the vacancy. On the yellow furze-dust light was hard and physical; over the parching heather shadow faded and folded tone on tone, and was drawn to the sky on delicate brittle peaks.

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While reading these descriptions, the entire matter of our making sense is experienced as strange and is defamiliarized. Certainly these descriptions appear grounded in realism — the represented world is minutely described and the descriptions seem true enough, up to a point. But what are we to make of a landscape where space comes like water, where trees exhale darkness, where lawns are blotted out by the pressure of trees? Where are these places where height has the quality of depth, where houses press down in apprehension, and hills strain against the inrush of distance? Just what parts of Ireland do they describe?

At any point in the system of mimesis, we should be able, in principle, to infer the unfolding of causal sequences that allow us to recognize the represented objects as the same again, and that consequently lends to the work its sense of teleological coherence.

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As earlier noted, the authentic mimetic work refers to and arranges essential or typical patterns of experience and in so doing, grasps laws underlying reality and history, putatively revealing the world in its innermost principles of intelligibility. When successful, the formalized representation of this capacity includes the deductive inferences of logic and the inductive inferences of science; to the extent that the work of literary mimesis is shaped by these modes of reasoning, it rests on exceptionally durable intellectual foundations.

These landscape descriptions hardly resemble the domesticated lower altitudes found in realistic fiction, but nor do they represent the foreign yet natural terrain of exiled excess. In other words, because they sometimes but not always escape the cartography of consensus upon which our comprehension depends which are the contingent parts?

One almost has the impression reading the strange way the narrator describes the world square cows? Certainly this is not reality, or is it? Here is another passage which describes a derelict mill: The mill startled them all, staring light-eyed, ghoulishly, round a bend in the valley. Incredible in its loneliness, roofless, floorless, beams criss-crossing the dank interior daylight, the whole place tottered, fit to crash at a breath.

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Hinges rustily bled where a door had been wrenched away; up six storeys panes still tattered the daylight. Mounting the tree-crowded, steep slope some roofless cottages nestled under the flank of the mill with sinister pathos. The sun cast in through the windows some wild gold squares distorted by the beams; grasses along the windowsills trembled in light.

Split light, like hands, was dragged past to the mill-race, clawed like hands at the brink and went down in destruction. Laurels breathed coldly and close: on her bare arms the tops of the leaves were timid and dank, like tongues of dead animals. High up a bird shrieked and stumbled down through the darkness, tearing the leaves.

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Now, on the path: grey patches worse than the dark: they slipped up her dress knee-high. In fact, the critical interest and indeed, in ways, the comprehensibility of these passages resides in the ways they are fashioned for something other than a reality effect, in the ways they are fashioned for something other than the purposes of consensus. The semantic conceptual anomalies produced not only menace our expectations about comparison and signification, but call attention to and undermine our confidence in customary processes of signification.

In other words, by denying or at least questioning that there is some form of relation between language and the object world, Bowen destabilizes and defamiliarizes a fundamental theoretical support of mimesis. Look, for example, at this passage that describes Lois and a house guest walking along a path: They approached the doorway that yearned up the path like an eye-socket. A breath of peat-smoke, of cold trodden earth, of the ghostly dark of white walls came out from the cottage. Danny took form in the darkness, searching with his one eye.

He stood with his white beard, helpless and eager. Then Danny broke out this was young Mr. And here was his wife he brought with him, the beautiful lady. He declared that she brought back the sight of youth to his eyes.

If there is congruence here, it is so estranged from the unities of identity that we have learned to take for granted and that are assumed in realist formulation that it is unfathomable to us. In a metaphysical sense, you could say that these descriptions attack nature in its very forms, which it mocks and deforms, while they scramble the hierarchical order that separates and puts humans on top, thus cancelling the linear process of their relationship.

Even where a choice between two meanings might finally be made, the sustained alternative has, by its very existence, asserted a threat to resolution; consequently, the various possibilities posed disconcert at the same time they enrich our sense of possibility. Yet while these descriptions interrupt our attempts to consistently progress towards and secure determinate meaning, it is important to note that it is, by and large, the conventional rhythm and syntactical regularity of these irreal passages that keeps them from meaninglessness.

Indeed, the incongruity between realistic and patently unreal formulations often goes unnoticed.


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  • Were they written completely in solecisms, we would feel at a loss, our proximity to meaning so great that it would feel untransversible and we might choose instead of reading these descriptions just to ignore them. The infiltration of transcategorical i. Until recently it has been those commonplace narrative elements that represent the manifest plot that have constituted the mainstay of critical scrutiny.

    But the infiltration of the monstrous discomfits the absoluteness of the natural order represented in the manifest plot and of most historical and thematic interpretations of The Last September exposing them as uneasy intellectual impositions.