KSRK: Exiles and Garff’s Kierkegaard

The Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub lives on. Mainly in comments posted here and there at this point, some of which I’ll reproduce here to bring us up to speed.

Last Thursday, June 17, I posted the following comment over at Godsbody:

Sorry I haven’t finished the book and jumped into the discussion either. Got started too late and had too much going on at home this week. Maybe the Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub will pick up a few slackers that you guys leave in the dust this week.

I agree (I’m into ch. 4 now) the nuns’ tale is what makes the book live. In an odd way, I think it retroactively redeems what might be lacking in the first chapter. And I like the neat way ch. 3 segues from the tales of the nuns’ various discoveries of vocation to that of Hopkins.

Anyway I haven’t followed the discussion closely over there–because I keep wanting to finish the book– but I will say I think the “worms” image is just fine. I actually think it’s not too far from something that could have flowed from Hopkins’ pen, partly due to the sound of it and how it fits with the sound of other words in that sentence.

I also posted this, in response to someone’s comment about casting the movie adapation of the book:

Obviously: Casey Affleck as Hopkins. (He’ll have to work on the Brit accent.)

Hugh Laurie as Rev. James Jones.

Let’s get some genuine German actresses for the nuns:

Alexandra Maria Lara as Sr. Henrica.

Anna Maria Mühe as Sr. Aurea.

Claudia Michelsen as Sr. Barbara.

Franziska Petri as Sr. Brigitta.

Inga Birkenfeld as Sr. Norberta.

And let’s have the nun story actually scripted in German, with English subtitles.

Directed by Wim Wenders.

More recently–this morning in fact–I posted this comment on the most recent post at Godsbody:

I finished the book last night. My opinion of it has gone way up–although I’m still not sure I’d call it a novel. More like an imaginative essay or creative non-fiction. A hybrid, really. But the best sort of work–in that love for his subjects was obviously a large motivating factor for the author. I loved how Hansen, in a way, worked side by side with Hopkins, to bring the obscure nuns up out of obscurity. And at the same time Hansen brought Hopkins further out of obscurity and into the light; which is a good thing. I often had the feeling that Hopkins and the five nuns were smiling down from heaven at what Hansen did. More anon over at Korrektiv, just as soon as I peruse the Inside Catholic discussion more carefully.

See that–I’ve actually finished the book! And I like it! And now I’m trying to work my way across the high seas of erudition at Inside Catholic.

Now, on the Garff front, Quin implied, in a friendly jab, that I pulled the KSRK magic carpet out from under him just as he was poised to lead the Katholische-Kierkegaardian blogosphere in a fly-over of that mountainous tome. To which I replied with the following comments:

There are many books and many paths up the KSRK mountain.

The Garff book arrived with a thud on the front porch yesterday.

A new meme for anyone who’d like to play along: find any book of at least 666 pages, find the sixth word on page 666 and post it here in the comments, along with your interpretation of what that might mean vis-a-vis the coming apocalypse and the number of the beast:

In my copy of Garff, the word is:


A key word in the Kierkegaardian lexicon. How does one become a Christian in Christendom? –was the central question SK posed at the outset of his career as an author. Becoming versus being. He who is not busy being born is busy dying. But what are we becoming? What is the world becoming? Are we going to hell in a handbasket?

So I take this word as a warning: become … what God intended you to be and what God’s grace in Jesus Christ makes possible. Don’t become what your worst impulses and the Devil would deceive you into being.

That’s my contribution to the Garff track of the KSRK.

KSRK is really more an attitude of resignation in the face of Great Books rather than an actual reading club with a schedule and whatnot.

Stay tuned for more! And don’t miss Quin’s recent YouTube post with a teaser for our upcoming reading of Love in the Ruins (because Cubeland Mystic hasn’t read it yet, and because we’re due to be rereading it in this campaign season).


  1. cubeland mystic says

    On vacation. Have not finished Exiles yet.

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    Thanks for the comments, Rufus.

  3. I think you should consider a real Brit and broaden your horizons

    This guy would be awesome as Gerard Manely Hopkins.

    He has the look, and the accent wouldn’t keep slipping back into southy Boston as Casey Afleck’s would.

    I have watched this young actor grow up and he is really a great untapped talent. If you don’t think so, watch “The Winter Guest”. He was ten I think and he steals every scene he is in.

  4. I have some interesting stuff on Hopkins’ poertry from a book by Steven Fry (The Ode Less Traveled)

    If you think it would be of any help to the discussion of Exiles I would gladly post it. He loves Hopkins, and does a fine job of explaining the rhyme scheme of his poetry (the whyness of the whatness if you will).

    Just let me know if you want me to post it. I will do what you want.

  5. Rufus McCain says

    Thanks angelmeg. You’re right, Sean Biggerstaff might make a good Hopkins. He’s a bit young at 25, but that might work in covering a span of time from late teens to mid-thirties.

    As for the Stephen Fry book–sure, anything you’d like to throw into the mix would be welcome. Does he have anything to say about The Wreck of the Deutschland in particular? And since Fry is buddies with Hugh Laurie whom we’ve already cast for the movie, maybe we could make a part for him as well. Hopkins’ father?

  6. angelmeg says

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    It is possible that you came across this mysterious Jesuit priest’s verse at school and that someone had the dreadful task of trying to explain to you how sprung rhryth worked. Relax: it is like Pamsterston and the Scheswig-Holdstein Question. Only three people in the world understand it, one is dead, the other has gone mad, and the third is me, and I have forgotten.

    Hopkins was a nineteenth-century English-Welsh poet who developed his won metrics. Calling the system ‘sprung rhythm’ he marked his verse with accents, loops and foot divisions to demonstrate how his stresses should fall. Among his prosodic inventions were such devices as ‘outriders’, ‘roving over’ and hanging stress’: these have their counterparts or at least rough equivalents in the sain and lusg that make up cynghandedd, the should system if ancient Welsh poetry, which Hopkins had studied deeply. I am not going to go into them here for two simple reasons: firstly, they make my head ache and secondly, I think they would only be usefully covered in a much more detailed book than this aspires to be. If you really want to get to grips with what he was up to, I recommend a library. His collected letters are available in academic bookshops and university collections, in these he explains to fellow poets like Robert Bridges and Coventry Patmore what he felt he was doing. Personally I find reading his poems a supreme pleasure unless I am trying to figure out their underlying metrical schemes.

    Here is one of his best-known works “Pied Beauty”. YOU ARE STILL READING OUT LOUD AREN’T YOU? GOOD!

    (Link here to Pied Beauty Online)

    “The achiever of , the mastery of the thing!” as he himself wrote of the windhover. I am sure you have seen that most of the words are Anglo-Saxon in origin, very few Latinate, words there at all (counter, original , colour, trout are the only ones I am sure of), the alliteration is fierce throughout though not in the strict bang, bang, bang – crash! Form we say in Langland. (previously studied). You probably don’t need to count syllables to be able to tell that there is no standard metric regularity here. His own accents on ‘áll trádes’ reveal tge importance he places on stress and the unusual nature of its disposition.

    Now read out the opening of “The Nature Is a Heraclitian Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection”. The endearing title refers to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who believed that impermanence, the perpetual flux of all nature, is central to our understanding of existence and that clouds, air, earth and fire, constantly transmute one into the other. The language again is almost entirely Anglo-Saxon in derivation. Hopkins uses virgules to mark the long lines for us into hemistiches.

    Essentially his technique was all about compression: sprung rhythm squeezes out weak or ‘slack syllables’ and condenses the strong stresses, one to each foot, “sprung rhythm makes verse stressy’ he wrote to his brother Everard, ‘it purges it to an emphasis as much brighter, livelier, more lustrous that the regular but commonplace emphasis of common rhythm, as poetry in general is brighter than common speech.’

    The manner was designed to create an outward, poetic form (‘instress’) that mirrored what he saw as the ‘inscape’ of the world. He said in a letter to Patmore that stress is ‘the making of a thing more or making it markedly, what it already is; it is the bringing out its nature.’ His sense of instress and inscape is not unlike the medieval idea of haecceiety or ‘thisness’ and the later modernist obsession with quiddity (‘whatness’). If such exquisite words are leaving you all of a doo-dah, it is worth remembering that for those of us with a high doctrine of poetry, the art is precisely concerned with precision, exactly about the exact, fundamentally found in the fundamental, concretely concrete, radically rooted in the thissness and whatness of everything. Poets, like painters, look hard for the exact nature of things and feelings, what they really really are. Just as painters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century tried to move their form on, tried to find new ways to represent the ‘concrete flux of interpenetrating intensities’ that T. E. Hulme sawa as reality, so Hopkins attempted to create a prosodic scheme that went beyond the calm, regular certainties of iambs and anapaests (‘running rhythms’ as he called traditional metrics) in order to find a system that mirrored the (for him) overwhelming complexity, density and richness of nature. How they mocked Cezanne, ,and Matisse for their pretension and oddity, yet how truthful to us their representations of nature now seem. The idiosyncrasy of Hopkins is likewise apparent, yet how can argue with such a concrete realization of the skies? ‘Cloud puffballs, torn tufts, tossed pillows . . .’ The density and relentless energy of his stresses and word-yokings are his way of relaying to use the density and relentless energy of experience. There is nothing ‘primitivist’, ‘folksy’ or’naïve’ in Hopkins’s appropriation of indigenous, pre-Renaissance poetics, his verse strikes our ear as powerfully modern, complex and tense. ‘No doubt my poetry errs on the side of oddness’ he wrote to Bridges in 1879, ‘It is the vise of distinctiveness to become queer. This vice I cannot have escaped.’

    Excerpted From “The Ode Less Traveled: Unlocking the Poet Within” by Steven Fry p106-109

    nothing specifically about our poem, but he does love the poet.

  7. angelmeg says

    BTW: I finished the book this afternoon, after a sufficient period of mourning for the lost souls I will post my reflections on the work.

    I found it very moving.

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