Michael McKeon Responds, part II (Questions for us)

[this is the second part of the email that Michael sent me–DM]


In order to take full advantage of this remarkable opportunity to talk to others at some length about my work, I’d like now to list a number of topics that haven’t yet received attention in this discussion. Some of these are arguments, others are ideas or formulations; some are obvious, at least in outline, some I’ve learned from others, some I’ve developed myself; but all I’ve found peculiarly illuminating in the thinking that went into writing this book. I’d be most grateful for any reflections readers might have on these things, either pro or contra, either their interest and utility in themselves or the way I’ve employed them in Secret History.

1.) The effort to coordinate thinking about the division of knowledge at the most general and the most particular of levels with thinking about the division of labor in a similar fashion (see, most explicitly, 324-27).

2.) The distinction between positive and negative freedom, especially as I’ve conceived it in tandem with the difference between the traditional and the modern.

3.) My attempt to juxtapose literary and graphic means of treating form and structure in the representation of spatial relations. Although my ample use of illustrations in Secret History is of course broadly relevant to this topic, it becomes most explicit in my discussion of genre painting in chapter 8, 423-35.

4.) My characterization of what’s new about “the public” in the modern world as the virtuality of an imagined social totality whose indefinite inclusiveness is able to admit all of those private, actual individuals who pre-exist and determine the nature of that whole. I speak most directly about this conceptualization at 106-9 and 324, where it’s exemplified not only by the public sphere, the market, and representative democracy but also by the realm of aesthetic experience.

5.) The theory that the transition from traditional to modern notions of “personality’ is marked by a shift in the location of “the natural” from the social to the sexual register: see 274-77.

Thanks in advance. And for those readers who haven’t purchased a copy of Secret History, the paperback edition is scheduled to be available by the end of October at about half the price of the hardbound.

Michael McKeon

[Since Michael has been so generous in his responses to our queries, I’d like to keep the McKeon collective reading going for at least another day or so. Feel free to use the comments or to do your own posts to respond.–DM]


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