The Gaze of Orpheus

Yesterday afternoon, I was invited by a very talented friend to the first part in a series of three concert-lectures she is putting on. The entire arch of the project deals with the Orphic myth and how it has influenced music and composers (my friend is studying to be a conductor). Her research was thorough and inventive, and the music performed was stellar (Haydn, Monteverdi, etc.). Besides the enjoyment I had from the music, I am always keen on anything to do with Classical Greece (full disclosure: I studied Classical Greek Civilization & Mythology in college). Before I continue, if you are unfamiliar with Orpheus, may I suggest taking a look at this quick snippet.

She mentioned that she will explore more about the “gaze of Orpheus” in her second concert-lecture. This had me thinking about Maurice Blanchot (as one does on a chilly Sunday afternoon). Even though her project is of course directed towards music, I strongly recommended Blanchot’s essay, The Gaze of Orpheus. Many people find Blanchot to be difficult and obtuse–I admit to being perplexed at times–but he is definitely worth a read to anyone interested in literature, language, art, life, death, etc. He is so fascinated with the idea of Orpheus, that he even wrote an experimental novel called Thomas the Obscure.

In The Gaze of Orpheus, Blanchot discusses Orpheus’ descent from the world of the living to Hades so he may retrieve his dead love, Eurydice. He compares this excursion to that of “the artist,” as well as examining the creative process.

Even though he is a challenge, I highly recommend Blanchot. I won’t get into it with this post, but for the past couple of years, I have been extremely interested with space in literature: both the physical space within the novel and also, the way the reader, author, and character(s) react to space. Which brings me to Blanchot’s The Space of Literature. Read it!

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