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David LaRocca
The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Volume 47, Number 2, Summer
2013, pp. 109-131 (Article)
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DOI: 10.1353/jae.2013.0011

For additional information about this article
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jae/summary/v047/47.2.larocca.html

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The Education of Grown-ups:
An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell1
DAVID LAROCCA
But then I think of how often I have cast the world I want to live
in as one in which my capacities for playfulness and for seriousness
are not used against one another, so against me. I am the lady they
always want to saw in half.
—Stanley Cavell, Pursuits of Happiness

Just as there was a time when it was uncommon, not to say unfashionable
and perhaps professionally treacherous, for philosophers to write about
Ralph Waldo Emerson, there was also a time when the pertinence of Stanley
Cavell’s work for philosophy was a point of controversy. For some philosophers, as well as literary scholars who read and use work by philosophers,
Cavell’s achievements were in evidence early and consistently—even as he
ably ventured into new fields of research such as opera, film, Shakespeare,
the American Transcendentalists, and so on—and writing about him did not
pose a problem but instead offered the pleasure of reading and commenting. Yet even with many points of critical celebration along the way, there
was a long stretch when Cavell’s place in, and impact on, philosophy and
other humanistic fields was either marginalized or in doubt. It seems that as
the “repression” of Emerson has been overcome, so too the trial period for
Cavell’s full membership has elapsed. Now there is little reason to worry or
complain that his work is not getting sufficient attention. In the last half dozen years, for example, there have been as many international conferences
celebrating his work, and as Cavell himself notes in his 2010 autobiography,
David LaRocca, PhD, is Writer-in-Residence in the F. L. Allen Room at the New York
Public Library and a Fellow at the Moving Picture Institute in New York. He is the
author of On Emerson (Wadsworth, 2003), and the editor of Stanley Cavell’s book
Emerson’s Transcendental Etudes (Stanford University Press, 2003) and The Philosophy
of Charlie Kaufman (University Press of Kentucky, 2011), and Estimating Emerson: An
Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013). His articles
on aesthetic theory, autobiography, film, and American philosophy have appeared
in Epoché, Afterimage, Transactions, Liminalities, Film and Philosophy, Midwest Quarterly,
and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.
Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 47, No. 2, Summer 2013
© 2013 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

a reader trying to write new things may be led to defer or diminish the work that inspired those new things. and writing is a variation of reading. In this essay I attend closely to how these and other issues in the aesthetics of reading appear when engaged with the interpretation of Cavell’s writing. as he finds in Thoreau. the work. because the phenomenon. is sufficiently generic to warrant a wider fascination with everything from a reader’s self-consciousness as a reader to a reader’s encounter with the criteria that make up her professional interests. Why should the nature of inheriting Cavell’s writing be of interest to a group larger than. in the title of the present essay.”2 Cavell has said that while he may be the “victim of unfortunate timing.4 Given the improving and continually hopeful condition of Cavell’s inheritance. Thus my invocation. say. his most devoted readers and supporters? First.” his academic life has. are capable of inspiring new writing while also causing the inspired to feel afraid of. since it can often take time to find one’s best readers. however precariously. I do not proceed here in a mode of defense or complaint. including “remaining. or otherwise estranged from.” the .” as I have heard him refer to it.110  LaRocca Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory.” and that “being odd and.5 Cavell’s writing is especially pertinent to an audience interested in the aesthetics of education. noting along the way what might be called the manner or sensibility of his works’ diverse range of inheritors as well as their philosophical commitments and reservations. because he has both argued and exemplified (in his own writing) how. I am interested in the phenomenon and practice of reading texts that. finding that the inspiration suffocates new initiatives in prose. that contributes to the careful and ongoing reception of his work. so as to give or take readings. contemporary. owing to its fundamental awareness of itself as enacting the “interplay of writing and reading. but instead in a mood of wonder—as a philosophical anthropologist might when inquiring after the rituals and beliefs of a tribe. “reading is a variation of writing.”3 It may be precisely Cavell’s “belatedness. been “charmed. much less how to produce new work of comparable quality. staying odd” has its benefits. Panicked by its pedagogical force. of Cavell’s notion that “philosophy becomes the education of grownups” is meant to associate the aesthetics of reading Cavell’s work with the more general experience of education as it continues into maturity. because of their power. “there are now roughly as many books on my work as works by me. where they meet in meditation and achieve accounts of their opportunities. And yet reading and writing must go on. since to write is to cast words together that you did not make. including the categories with which she conducts scholarship. Being summoned to thought by writing does not mean one knows what to do with it. while made concrete in Cavell’s case.”6 Since Cavell’s work perpetually occupies that space of meditation. regardless of discipline. for all its complications and disappointments.

At least for the time being. now collaborating with Bernie Rhie on an edited volume of essays titled Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism. which is. where such readings can be given and taken. then. worthwhile nonetheless for the way it suggests the specific difficulty of inheriting Cavell’s work. hopefully.” in which he aimed to orient readers to the questions that animate Cavell’s work. on this occasion. Cavell has transformed and enlarged the space where philosophy is said to occur—that is. deferral. among other quintessential attributes of his work. has been confused with the initial or early problem of neglect or marginalization—namely. Since critique and analysis are grounded in the practice of reading. the present investigation can be taken as part of a larger project of finding interest in the ways philosophical works are inherited by the culture they are intended for or addressed to. including its range and ambition. Some years ago Richard Eldridge began his edited volume of essays Stanley Cavell with an introduction titled “Between Acknowledgment and Avoidance. in order to elucidate and clarify what new kinds of reading methods we might prefer to adopt. mainly philosophers. perhaps we can take up positions as readers and inheritors of Cavell’s work and thereby face an issue that has been present all along but. but it is. for good reasons.7 More recently.8 has . Secondly. remains an issue for readers and critics since it amplifies Cavell’s achievements even while it problematizes how those achievements can be assessed and analyzed. Consequently. how to read Cavell and write about his work in ways that honor the achievements of the work while also going on from it. In short. Eldridge. and other forms of obscuration—leading variously to avoidance. a principal feature of his work’s attraction. for some. the aesthetics of reading Cavell reveals to us how his writing is primarily conducted as a form of education for grown-ups. we are now in a position to ask not whether Cavell should be part of our mainstream in philosophical and literary thinking but how we can ably interpret his work. it may be highly relevant to consider those moments of blindness. connected to an understanding about the specific claim it makes on its readers. For many years it seemed that complaints about Cavell’s work as “personal”—or some version of the playful and serious mentioned in the epigraph—obstructed his readers. or innovate when reading his work. This is precisely what prompts me. from political theory to film studies). or disavowal—that show one hasn’t been reading after all. deafness.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  111 audience for his prose is naturally broader and more diverse than the realm of strictly defined professional philosophy. in many fields of research (from feminist philosophy to anthropology. to take a closer look at a few instances of Cavell’s critical inheritance by scholars. What had earlier seemed like a criterion for dismissal or exclusion is now. Like Thoreau. And yet the personal. Mine is a limited undertaking with modest aspirations. avoid.

then. of Cavell’s work that may have generated the “allergic reaction” that Eldridge and Rhie diagnose are highly pertinent to what follows in the present investigation: (1) Cavell’s “appeal to ordinary language is entered precisely when the very existence of any ‘we’ is in doubt.112  LaRocca continued theorizing what remains of perennial interest to some readers of Cavell’s work: the occasional. so far. and I think reasonably encourage. Eldridge and Rhie suggest that part of the work of “reframing” Cavell’s writing is intimately caught up with “a therapeutic uncovering of the resistances that have led to the repression of his voice and work in the past. aslant of Cavell’s. perhaps especially scholars who should benefit from his work. naked. do not seek to deeply engage it or wed themselves to it professionally. anthologies.” and therefore nothing more worthy of our dedicated attention. the evidence of myriad monographs. a presence that promotes his allegiances to humanism—complicates the reception of his work in philosophy and other fields in the humanities. As famous and influential as Cavell’s work appears to be (again. and claims to ‘what we say’ are by their very nature vulnerable. and reanimating his work for the future—must go hand in hand. and exposed (subject to rebuke. and it seems highly plausible to count these as the same points of resistance among some philosophers. it is incumbent upon Cavell’s readers to critically explore what it would mean to achieve “a new or transformed ‘we’ . and conferences on his work attests to this fact).”9 Eldridge and Rhie direct their introductory remarks to the “sources of resistance” that inhabit literary studies. . to be sure. or we might say presumptions.11 As Eldridge and Rhie suggest.”12 And in so doing. one imagines. it can often seem as if those features of acclaim hide a pernicious and counterintuitive fact: that scholars. depends on the assessment that Cavell—his voice.10 Two qualities. who have entered into this new we from the resources of their own subjectivities. consisting of new or transformed subjects. articles. I propose to spend a little time—in the wake of Eldridge and Rhie’s work—in the midst of some ideas and texts that illuminate features of Cavell’s reception in academic scholarship. indifference. Eldridge and Rhie’s project is so helpful and illuminating precisely because it makes evident the two issues that have shadowed Cavell’s work . and (2) humanism pervades Cavell’s writing. The paradox. as well as nonreading or disengagement. As a form of intellectual history.13 In conversation Cavell has defined the primary paradox of his work as the conflict between his deeply democratic impulse and his writing style. in philosophy. The two tasks—taking up the critical past so as to engage productively with interests and work that lie. instances when his work is in some form or another neglected or awkwardly esteemed—as we find in moments of misreading. . more particularly. or any other number of ways such claims might misfire)”. but still prominent. readers will be in a position to appreciate Cavell’s sense that there is “nothing more uncanny than the human.

” his voice can. the prose can seem to be an enacted paraphrase.15 Imitation may be a form of flattery. vitally and frighteningly bound together in Cavell’s work.”14 In an important and surprising way. overwhelm the reader to the degree that when she turns to writing of her own. that “in philosophy it is the sound which makes all the difference. Therefore.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  113 from the very beginning—namely. and justification. if they are not exclusive to reading Cavell. neglected. we might consider instead that for Cavell imitation is more akin to suicide than compliment. are at least exacerbated by the writing we have inherited from him. a project that in Cavell’s writing is thoroughly bound up with the very nature of being human. at times. the contestation of inclusion/exclusion in an academic community (e. among them that “the reclamation of the human self against its neglect by modern thought is as necessary and urgent today as it was when Cavell first began his long career. one’s voice is precious. I continue with (3) that precisely because Cavell has said tone is so important to one’s writing. which Eldridge and Rhie explore along with the contributors to their volume. As I move ahead to consider some points of resistance or complication in reading Cavell’s work. In all such cases we are presented with illustrations of our continual and difficult effort to read well. repressed. or in instances when acknowledgment becomes an occasion of apology—in both senses—as an expression of one’s regret or lapse and as a kind of defense. Adding to (1) and (2) above (drawn from Eldridge and Rhie). then. indeed. then. I am interested in how the interaction between reader and text illuminates something interesting about both: how we learn things about Cavell’s writing—as much as his readers—by the moments that exist “between acknowledgment and avoidance”. The two are. Given our proximity to Emerson’s texts. but in Cavell’s estimation. has had consequences. This intimacy. and so on—we should take seriously the way in which his work provokes these reactions because it is exemplary in its achievement of reminding us of the central role of the human community and the human subject. I also want to contribute a few more factors that. the trouble is impersonal after all. For example. the “we” of philosophers or any other type of scholar). to analyze concrete instances when Cavell is read by others in order to consider how his writing—in content and style—itself enables or resists reading. it appears. regardless of how we want to describe Cavell’s relation to mainstream philosophy and literary studies—as being resisted. the objective . Cavell’s prose reinforces our awareness of the embeddedness of content and style. excuse. and not a feature a writer should mimic or arrogate. It just has felt personal because Cavell so steadfastly holds to his conviction in these important questions. especially writing about Cavell. and the challenge of defining and defending one’s capacities for inclusion/exclusion in the human community. is to disambiguate between these personal and impersonal factors. In short. of course.. Part of my work.g. causing allergies.

the extensiveness of Cavell’s writing—its diversity of subjects that are yet bound up with a unity and clarity of purpose—make it highly tempting to simply quote Cavell as a way of explaining Cavell. anticipates his critics and does their work for them. Furthermore. Emerson resembles his own hero. one wants . is his own best interpreter.”17 With Cavell the rewards one gains in reading his work—including the satisfaction of responses to perennial philosophical conundrums—also seem to invite “contamination” or court a certain disorientation. Indeed. or not a consistent voice for philosophical prose.114  LaRocca for any reader of Cavell is to write about him with one’s own voice. undertaken significant labor to preface. entrancing. however belatedly it emerges? Or does Cavell write preludes and codas to guide the inheritance of his work. in that you cannot combat him without being contaminated by him. again like Nietzsche and remarkably akin to Freud. it often seems. Some cannot help. conclude. Bloom refracts our present concern when he writes: “The critic of Emerson is little better off than the biographer. (5) the degree to which one can be taught without getting lost in the lesson. The impulse to paraphrase Cavell’s voice is understandable: his philosophical acumen and personal volubility are intoxicating. A reader can get lost in Cavell’s prose—happily.16 This is a much more diffuse issue and lies at the heart of many theories of “influence. and thus may be confidently invoked to convey authority and insight. Is this a form of “authorizing” that lends credibility to the new scholarship—a kind of consecration by its subject? Or does Cavell agree to write as part of some wish to engage a community of scholars he finds himself desiring to be a part of. The risk of paraphrase when writing about Cavell is coupled with a further complication: (4) the art of quotation. since Emerson. when invited. to control the interpretations presented by his r­ eaders—as if all can be said as long as he has something to say about it? The art of quotation coupled with the practice of paraphrase leads to a further issue. in the last decade or so Cavell has. but wish to adopt his voice—such as it is possible. How much quotation from Cavell is enough when one risks losing touch with the seam between one’s own voice and Cavell’s? Bringing Cavell quotations into one’s written work. to be sure. such as they can—as a way of managing troubled hopes for exceptional expression. it seems. but then also and often anxiously. Montaigne.” such as we find in Harold Bloom’s work. indeed. threatens one’s own chances for distinctive expression—as if his prose and the voice it contains—is always potent enough to overpower even one’s best efforts at vital composition. or otherwise respond to many books and anthologies on his work. Having learned things from Cavell. and the penultimate one I will enumerate—namely. Cavell. it sometimes seems. Living with the fear that one has no voice. After a few quotations one may become hypnotized by Cavell’s presence on the page and soon enough give over to paraphrase and other forms of rehearsing his texts and arguments. Cavell’s distinctive style is an easy mark for paraphrase.

After all. Russell Goodman. or how. and why it is important. in all its competency and compellingly supple style. Contending with Stanley Cavell. one’s own voice. Thoreau. and Wittgenstein]. remains marginalized even though interest in his work has grown. we still need to determine by how much. to know how to go on from his writing—while still keeping it close at hand. it would be a real service to know if. But his isolation can be overstated.. can make these questions seemingly irresolvable. as Michael Fischer notes in “Using Stanley Cavell.g. his concern seems squarely aligned with the aesthetics of reading Cavell—how it is possible.” so it would seem that having readers equipped with skills to read that work is paramount. and a third coedited by Alice Crary and Sanford Shieh: The contributors in these three volumes [Stanley Cavell.” his review of recent anthologies of Cavell criticism edited by Richard Eldridge. Garrett Stewart laments “the regrettable undercirculation of Cavell’s ideas” in literary studies and predicts that “mainstream literary scholars will increasingly have a hard time” with his writing—Stewart calls it “literary prose”—because it calls on reading skills that in the “epoch of cultural studies.”18 And yet Garrett Stewart’s “lament” about atrophied reading skills seems just the diagnosis we should be attending to. like the writers who have influenced him [e. Emerson.” In the introduction to this same volume. the curious fact reflected by Stewart’s assessment is precisely that reading Cavell is not an issue that will go away or be resolved.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  115 to find a way back to one’s page. perhaps ideally. less pessimistic assessment that gets Cavell’s peculiar professional status exactly right: “Cavell occupies a curious position in all the fields in which he works: he is at the same time a major figure and one whose work people do not quite know how to use. Russell Goodman offers a more measured. In an otherwise insightful essay on Cavell’s literary criticism (“The Avoidance of Stanley Cavell” in Contending with Stanley Cavell). what are we to make of the prognosis for specialized reading skills—that is. Therefore. he adds another useful category to our taxonomy of issues: (6) the conditions for teaching Cavell in the classroom and ways that ­practice . one can be taught by Cavell’s texts how not to get lost in them and. and if reading skills in general are imperiled. Fischer concludes that “the reception of Cavell’s work will finally depend on his individual readers. just the kind of skills Cavell’s work summons and demands? While Fischer tries to get the true measure of Cavell’s “isolation” within the mainstream. If Stewart is overstating the reasons for his despair. and the semiotics of social energy” have “atrophied. Austin. Where was I? What was I thinking? Cavell’s work. and Reading Cavell] all begin from the assumption that Cavell. There are additional factors worth considering. discourse analysis.19 Still.

Sampling him in an English department course on Shakespeare. or dismissive of his methods and intellectual references. as it were. 1 through 6 above). noted above as (6). (4) quotation. celebrated readers and critics. the excerpt from Cavell (thoroughly studied) thus risks eclipsing it. one who may in a certain sense be deaf to Cavell’s particular tone. potentially puts the class in touch with unfamiliar figures such as Wittgenstein. perhaps being hypnotized by the sound of his voice) and radical dismissal (remaining unable to have an ear for his prose and project). Naoko Saito’s The Gleam of Light: Moral Perfectionism and Education in Dewey and Emerson and her coedited volume with Paul Standish. how his contributions to Emerson scholarship have been received among philosophers. may go some way toward addressing Fischer’s own lament. Having already devoted time to the former side of the divergence (again. This latter kind of reader. and (5) orientation within the text. I am also interested in the occasions when Cavell’s work is inaudible or otherwise unavailable to intelligent. for the next few pages I explore the latter phenomenon with an emphasis on Cavell’s expertise on Emerson—in particular. I aim to provide a small cross-section of instances in which Cavell’s work is read by philosophers—two of them. highly competent. . but there is another kind that is just as interesting: not the reader who finds Cavell’s work overwhelming but. As much as I am intrigued by the issues stated above (1 through 6) and the impact they might have on a scholar’s life. Fischer’s concern may persist. should not himself be dismissed as misguided or ignorant. one week’s assignment becoming the whole course. we might say.116  LaRocca is supported or hampered. and two of them who. Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grown-ups. not to mention the writers he draws on. his writing is still under-anthologized. is intimately bound up with earlier issues. much as introducing Cavell in a philosophy course can bring along American movies. Still. partly because each of his essays is intertwined with his work as a whole. What accounts for this seemingly radical divide? Anecdotal. The foregoing taxonomy describes attributes of one kind of reader. Instead of adding to a course.20 The very last point—about eclipsing—shows how the issue of teaching Cavell in the classroom. in writing monographs on his work. but salient. even in the wake of such work on educational and pedagogical matters. for example. who cite his work but do not engage it. evidence suggests that the reception of Cavell’s work is split into two primary modes of engagement: radical devotion (including reading and referencing his work. as he writes: Complicating the use of Cavell in the classroom. partly because his contributions to different disciplines remain unassimilated. the reader who finds it underwhelming. deem it necessary to address the nature of his writing and its potential for intelligibility and pertinence. especially (3) paraphrase.

then. or if they grant that he does. I am interested in the phenomenon of reading Cavell. and sometimes still is. they contend that he is either insufficiently articulate or rigorous to handle them. And we need look no further than Cavell’s own crucial series of contributions to that inquiry—for example. but it wasn’t nearly as instructive until I employed extremely precise. or philosophically. to claim it? A reply to Cavell’s question is not difficult because we don’t have evidence to show America’s philosophical expression. we might want to ask in reply: how does America express itself philosophically when the thinkers it produces call into question the nature of philosophical expression? That is. not judging whether it is being done according to a preexisting or preconceived standard. as Cavell suggests—why is this appraisal unknown to us. he may complicate the chances that others will recognize it as such. I decided that I could add a further hedge against offending colleagues and readers by drawing the examples from the work of philosophers I admire. does it sound odd to say it.22 To repress him means. I tried to write this essay using generalizations and wider trends. Or when Emerson’s work is sufficiently clear and robust. As a kind of echo across the decades. empirical cases. or why. If my tone belies this genuine desire and I come across as disparaging. to deny him a voice in philosophy. altered the nature of what might count as philosophy. in part. Though Cavell has written of this condition many times and over the . where he asks in earnest perplexity why philosophy in its “professionalization” recurrently “represses” Emerson as a philosopher. what we have here instead are limited occasions and instances of that reading. Because Cavell. if familiar.21 If America has expressed itself philosophically—in the work of Emerson and Thoreau. received in academic philosophy. not punitive. Finding ways to read Cavell may be usefully informed by a closer look at how Emerson was. of Cavell’s work (or for that matter Emerson’s). it is not speaking to philosophy. . I don’t presume there is any way to predict how a writer’s work will be or should be read. has been problematical.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  117 When nearly forty years ago Stanley Cavell asked “Why has America never expressed itself philosophically? Or has it. not my mood. but.” It is no wonder that our inheritance of Emerson and Thoreau. My intention is inquisitive. and thus to deprive him relevance to the projects and problems philosophers hold dear—which it seems philosophers believe Emerson does not cherish. thinkers who take the question of philosophy itself as central to the activity of philosophizing. much less Cavell. ?” the query had more to do with putting up for debate the criteria of what counts as philosophical than with founding such criteria by finding this or that text to fulfill them. or their neglect. rather. it is a fault of my prose. like Emerson before him. It it not my intention to criticize or embarrass fellow scholars for their use. . because we are unsure what we mean by the term “philosophical.

in an essay that aims “toward an Emersonian theory of democratic citizenship.25 Cavell’s name is not mentioned in the essay. Cavell does not have to argue for Emerson’s membership card. as it might best be described. Stephen Mulhall’s Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary. often make reference to Cavell’s work. including Russell Goodman’s American Philosophy and the Romantic Tradition. and. such as Stanley Cavell.26 I think these anthologies give us the best evidence and intimation of how writing about Cavell’s Emerson can look from within a community of philosophers. as if I were speaking of certain embassies of thought with their own perceived but undefined and undeclared boundaries. history. three anthologies of secondary essays.23 A similar ratio is found in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism. contributes to this habilitation. In a review of fifteen fairly recent books on Emerson—including eight monographs. many of them collected in edited volumes noted above. ipso facto the paucity of philosophers in this demographic would diminish. American studies. political theory. Si- .118  LaRocca course of many years in many disparate texts. Those who write about Emerson from these places. increasingly. his consternation is legitimate. Esquith. Cavell instead inquires after what it is or might be about Emerson that so upsets or offends or confuses the professionals of philosophy—moments of intellectual allergy that in themselves should be of interest to philosophers. and Stanley Cavell and the Claim to Community. In an effort to achieve a fair assessment of who is writing mainstream academic studies of Emerson. is not just that Emerson has been deprived a deserved place in the conversation of philosophy. And there are an ever increasing number of exceptional single-author books by philosophers writing about Cavell. as Cavell does. but that there is something peculiar—and telling—in the fact that he has been deprived such a place. Much of the secondary literature on Emerson is written from departments of English. But are there such books? Certainly there are philosophers writing about Cavell and Emerson whose works should be cited. where the question of democratic citizenship is among the most honed and nuanced that we have. merely writing about Emerson. not a consequence of curricular paranoia. Such a silence seems peculiar after reading Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome.24 One of the two philosophers in the sample. where among forty-three contributors. education. Stephen L. and three compendiums of Emerson’s work—only one of the thirty-five authors was cited as a professor of philosophy. comparative literature. literary studies. The worry.” finds room only to footnote a reference to Cavell’s Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism. and there is no explanation in the note why Cavell’s book should be consulted on the point under discussion. only one teaches in a department of philosophy. Had I selected books on similar subjects that were written by professors of philosophy. I attempted to select a representative sample of work. Cavell is no conspiracy theorist. Contending with Stanley Cavell. Reading Cavell.

tuition.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  119 mon Critchley’s Very Little. and Shakespeare. and Christian Theology.) In Listening on All Sides: Toward an Emersonian Ethics of Reading. Peter Dula considers Cavell’s relevance to ecclesiology and highlights the moral perfectionism Cavell finds in Emerson (and Nietzsche). teaches in a department of English. too. work that takes up Cavell’s Emerson more explicitly and centrally.28 In American Spaces of Conversion: The Conductive Imaginaries of Edwards. Lawrence Rhu. Philosophy. I simply note that while philosophers continue to expand the field of interest in Cavell generally (from film studies to Shakespeare to ordinary language philosophy. dedicates his eloquent book to studying the “convergence and elaboration of three major subjects in the philosophy of Stanley Cavell: Shakespeare. In Stanley Cavell’s American Dream: Shakespeare. Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen. and Espen Hammer’s Stanley Cavell: Skepticism. draws Cavell’s Emerson into the core of her project to enrich Dewey’s theory of progressive education through an encounter with moral perfectionism. and Hollywood Movies. Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grown-ups. Emerson. a professor of history. develops a model of literary ethics inspired by Cavell’s assessment of Emerson and related initiatives in ordinary language philosophy and contributes new thinking about “Emersonian modernism” that meaningfully illuminates the poetics of Wallace Stevens. Emerson. In The Gleam of Light: Moral Perfectionism and Education in Dewey and Emerson. William Carlos Williams. and Hollywood Movies. and James. aside from Goodman. Naoko Saito. and others. a professor of English. a professor of education. she. work she notes that has “clarified the coordinately repellent and attractive aspects of Emerson’s style”.” (The trade of “Emerson” for “Philosophy” in the subtitle of the book appears to generate a marketing decision with philosophical import. Renaissance studies. and quotation. such as Paul Grimstad and Branka Arsić’s The Other Emerson. and even posthumanism—as seen in Philosophy and Animal Life. In American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas. he teaches in a seminary and in a department called Bible and Religion.29 After these occasions of reading Cavell’s work on Emerson. edited by Cary Wolfe and his colleagues— a collection populated by philosophers). is comprised mainly of scholars in fields other than philosophy. devotes a section of her final chapter to Cavell’s claim that Nietzsche helped America find Emerson again. Companionship. the works understandably have Cavell’s Emerson as only a portion of a larger project. and Cavell (who wrote the afterword). Richard Deming. they and their contributors address pedagogical theory and educational philosophy in Cavell’s work.27 Given the authors’ ambitions. Andrea Kurston “builds on the scholarship” of Cavell. In Cavell. with its abundant references to Emerson’s notions of instruction. and the Ordinary. And yet. In Saito’s coedited book with Paul Standish (who is also a professor of education). Subjectivity. Almost Nothing. Sandra Laugier. the work that gets done on Cavell’s . a poet and literary critic who teaches in a department of English.

Cavell”) as simultaneously a move of (unintended?) exclusion—of dismissal? It might make sense to think of Cavell as a film theorist when reading The World Viewed. Roland Barthes. Pursuits of Happiness. S. Christian Metz. Metz. . or is it a difference that contributes to his miscategorization and misreading? The distinction may be of interest only to those with patience for the politics and rhetoric that divides philosophers from one another. Kant. Yet does Colapietro’s emphasis on “American” turn this moment of acknowledgment into a moment of apology? He writes—in an endnote: “But even counting Cavell as someone who in some measure and manner truly represents American philosophy makes . Bazin. names in philosophy. . so-called continental philosophers who write about film apparently without the subject matter posing a problem for their status as philosophers. with endnotes as long as the essay. and one academic discipline from another—divisions that are often as vigorously defended as they are vaguely defined. Shakespeare.33 Observe how in his endnote Colapietro positions. a silence that in turn makes it impossible to identify or amend. or Contesting Tears. Colapietro is pointing out the novelty of this American philosopher who writes on film.. as opposed to. In it he cites Cavell as “a notable exception” to the habit of American philosophers who omit any sustained considerations of film. . . Stanley Cavell. what sort of film theorist could produce Must We Mean What We Say? and The Claim of Reason? Or what kind of philosophical authority does a film theorist have when writing about the Bible. Peirce Society.” and “. and George Santayana—all familiar. now canonical. and not part of the genealogy of the first? Why isn’t Cavell listed as a philosopher who writes about film instead of as a film theorist? Is that a difference Cavell makes possible or makes interesting for us. the philosopher Vincent Colapietro writes approvingly of Hugo Münsterberg. in large measure. offers one such note to Cavell.”32 Why is Cavell part of the second list.31 Yet Colapietro creates a surprising categorical wedge when in the same essay he adduces “film theorists” such as “Sergei Eisenstein. “Eisenstein. . encouraging American philosophers to make use of his writing as they would work by William James. yet isn’t that work—as defined by its philosophical preoccupations as its filmic ones—sufficient to restrain an impulse to see Cavell primarily as a film theorist? After all. or repositions. To depersonalize the critique—taking the weight off Colapietro—we can simply ask if the resistance or denial is part of an unarticulated disciplinary convention in philosophy. Colapietro’s article. Josiah Royce. Siegfried Kracauer. Emerson. Should we then understand this move of overt inclusion (viz.30 In an issue of the journal Transactions of the C. say.120  LaRocca Emerson tends. Cavell as a philosopher. and Wittgenstein? Thinking of Cavell first as a “film theorist” creates what might be counted as an unwarranted habit of denying him a philosophical voice. André Bazin. to be done by scholars who do not identify themselves as philosophers.

be the occasion for just the sort of institutional recognition Cavell’s work would need in order to be read—and taken seriously—in certain circles. perhaps even more peculiarly. one must find the work of logical positivists. an audience comprised largely of American philosophers in a premiere journal of American philosophy. or without him. the Vienna school. and certain varieties of scientism of central importance. his legitimacy as a philosopher. to deny him this status) who is concerned with the philosophy of film. the American deconstructionist critics who have probed and dismantled Nietzsche’s texts seem to be uninterested in or unaware of his relationship to Emerson. I suspect that readers of Cavell’s work will continue to struggle with the alternation between deference and deferral. how they are read and if they are read. Another illustrative endnote appears in George Stack’s Nietzsche and Emerson: An Elective Affinity. While there are now robust forums of discussion on Cavell’s work by philosophers. The citation is thus honorific. Somehow the diminishment and habilitation of one’s work may be caught up in the same process. nevertheless highlights how philosophers are trained to categorize themselves and others and signals the difference that contributes to how they are treated—for example. but they have not delved into the detailed nature of this curious association. the variability of Colapietro’s description suggests that many instances remain in which other philosophers approach Cavell with hesitancy or reverence—perhaps ending with an occasion of citing his work in order to go on from him. that Cavell is an exception to the rule—may have the unintended consequence of reigniting the question of Cavell’s location in philosophy. which we can presume is genuine. like Colapietro. his efforts in this regard make him somewhat exceptional. Ironically. one must take seriously the work of transcendentalists and pragmatists. but merely indicative. not simply ungracious. it is presumed. The fact that Colapietro felt he had to say such things about Cavell—to remind his audience. Neither of these descriptions are comprehensive. Stack. He is an American philosopher (it would be unfair. another case of acknowledgment that nevertheless confirms disengagement—an excuse for not dealing with his writing. paradoxically. Colapietro’s attempt to be fair and gracious. writes. of Cavell being an exception to a rule: A number of American literary critics have. Given the taxonomy adduced above (1–6). and more concretely. On the second page of his book. Thus if Colapietro’s description leads in some instances to distraction.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  121 my point: he is the exception to the rule.”34 Are Colapietro’s italics meant to signal a moment of disciplinary distinction between the American philosopher and the Anglo-American or analytic philosopher? To be the former. called attention to the linkage between Emerson and Nietzsche. from time to time. a professor of philosophy. it can also. I have been calling this process reading. it is also presumed. Even though a few American . To be the latter.

Readers who are familiar with Cavell’s early and extensive development of the influence of Emerson on Nietzsche will recognize the nature of Stack’s understatement: Cavell is much more than “cognizant” of the relationship. So why is Cavell’s “perceptive way” of addressing and advancing the topic not welcomed into the main text? In Stack’s seventy-line endnote there seems to be a crucial admission that Cavell has some “insightful things to say” about Emerson and Nietzsche. What does emerge.35 Stack does not pause on Cavell’s status in the academy—that Cavell is an American philosopher goes by without any self-consciousness or disciplinary defensiveness. however. compressed space that defines endnotes. perhaps the only. Intriguingly. where he finds Cavell “in some measure” representative and “somewhat” exceptional. pushes Stack’s assessment of Cavell to the side. is that Cavell is mentioned—alone. if recognized.122  LaRocca philosophers—notably Stanley Cavell—are cognizant of the connection between the central figure of literary transcendentalism and the philosopher of “the will to power” and “the transvaluation of values. Stack does not set out . Yet unlike Esquith’s quick bibliographical reference to Conditions.”36 The connotations of touching upon a topic are clear enough—in terms of being superficial or of passing interest or without much extended consideration—and gravely misapplied to Cavell’s seminal work on the topic. Stack writes three pages on Cavell’s work in the miniature. More than once Stack writes that Cavell “parallels my own independent perception of the same phenomenon. But why is this extensive series of remarks hidden away? Why does Stack find that he has so much to say about Cavell. A similar understatement appears in Colapietro’s qualified endnote.37 Yet much of what Stack admits in his note seems mentioned primarily as an opportunity to demonstrate his own theses and theories about the two nineteenth-century writers. disavowed.”38 It would appear that Stack’s appraisal of Cavell—as an American philosopher who is “cognizant” of the influence of Emerson on Nietzsche and who has “done a great deal to rejuvenate Emerson as a thinker who ought to be taken seriously”—should make Cavell an exceptional. voice suited to complement Stack’s lengthy argument.” they have not pursued this rich and revealing clue to some of the major and many of the minor themes in Nietzsche’s philosophy. it is precisely in support of his thesis that Stack mentions Cavell—as having “touched upon the association between Emerson and Nietzsche in a perceptive way. making it an aside. Stack’s endnote—one of only two on Cavell in the entire nearly fourhundred-page book—like Colapietro’s endnote. apparently without match—as being the one American philosopher who does see in Nietzsche’s work lines of consanguinity with Emerson. and yet not the initiative or desire to include those remarks in the flow of his chapter? Does writing about Cavell seem to him a diversion from his argument? Stack’s thesis in this book is that Emerson’s influence on Nietzsche is still largely unknown or. Granted.

after all. though. though that is possible. Of course I accept that the non-Cavell texts I cite and the places where those texts have appeared will be read as anecdotal. Austin. Recall when Cavell discusses the reception of his work by J. the need is for something more like the possibility of one’s finding or discovering that one’s work is known or otherwise recognized for what it is and makes possible for others—namely. In Quest of the Ordinary. rather. . Yet are we not intrigued why a philosopher writing about Emerson and Nietzsche in 1992—when works such as The Senses of Walden. What in the shape or tone or content of Cavell’s prose prompted these instances of furtive inheritance by philosophers? It needn’t be the case that the kind of acknowledgment we see in Colapietro and Stack is a form of apology. As I stated at the beginning of this essay. though.” which he says made it “quite impossible for me to be realistic about the degree to which any work I do can be known. perhaps incidental— again.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  123 to write about Cavell’s interpretation of Emerson and Nietzsche. Stack appears to repress Cavell’s rejuvenation of Emerson.40 Cavell takes this reminiscence as an occasion to highlight a lesson in the “economies of praise. as writing that addresses the particularity and the humanity necessarily implied in the education of grown-ups. how can we know it as his? Imagining a situation in which he was asked to tersely encapsulate the raison d’être of his massive The Claim of Reason. and Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome are already well established—would keep Cavell’s contributions to the idea of Emerson “as a thinker who ought to be taken seriously” sequestered in back matter? After saying in his lengthy endnote that “Cavell has attempted to rejuvenate an interest in Emerson as philosopher and to overcome the ‘repression’ of Emerson in American philosophy. and he is at first disparaged and subsequently angered by the “silence” with which his writing was received. L.39 In acknowledging Cavell’s contribution of trying to overcome Emerson’s repression. This New Yet Unapproachable America. but rather that it suggests philosophers may have a troubled relationship with praise. should such attention be devoted to a couple of endnotes written by philosophers? I hope to have shown why these moments of clear acknowledgment summon one’s concern about disciplinary practices of reading—including citation and interpretation—and more specifically the aesthetics of reading Cavell’s writing. then Cavell does not rejuvenate this idea so much as give birth to it. praise in the ordinary sense of acclaim and recognition is not what Cavell stands in need of. hopefully not taken as cited with accusation.” Stack does not seem to appreciate that this so-called rejuvenation would be of immense service to his book’s thesis—and yet. Why.”41 What is the work Cavell may be said to do? And once such work is known. was there ever a time when Emerson was known as a philosopher? If not.”42 I put these responses in apposition to show the degree to which the silence and voice of philosophy are both aspects of speech. Cavell replied: “to help bring the human voice back into philosophy.

when Cavell’s prominently personal style sounds like it can join a conversation of other voices. accompanied (proven?) by the repetitive finding of his prose to be a fog (sometimes intensified as metaphysical) or a mist (sometimes tempered as golden). In Cavell’s case. as noted above in (5). that he is not a philosopher. it will be done fittingly—in some fashion of acknowledgment—that is. like that of inheriting Emerson’s. when the claims of this particular human subject suddenly connect to the claims of the human community. but also what is going on in Cavell’s writing that makes such an integration and appropriation difficult? As Russell Goodman notes above. neither as apology nor as praise. However. it seems that Cavell is well known but not yet or not often enough well read. Are the writers who are provoked to write in response to his work able to find their way not just in their prose but in the profession? . What Cavell says here of Emerson we might read in sympathetic disbelief as perceptibly self-reflexive—if unfortunate. by admirers as much as by detractors. under that description of his prose. and as yet without explanation: It is the sort of outbreak that seems to explain straight off why Emerson is the writer about whom it is characteristically insisted. his “voice” is repeatedly cited as contributing to the difficulty of navigating his prose—as if the person or the personal were an encumbrance to satisfying and intelligible philosophical writing instead of a cause for its manifestation. but the question of Emerson’s writing as “a fog” or “a mist” seems to parallel familiar accusations of Cavell’s writings as a place where one loses one’s orientation—for good or ill. continuing in the 1980s as in the 1840s. I wonder whether we ought to consider the quality and the fate of Cavell’s writing as sharing in this history and anthropology of inheritance. The acknowledgment dawns precisely when reading begins: we recognize Cavell sufficiently to recognize ourselves— in other words. in the space of acknowledgment.43 Cavell has certainly had less trouble earning name recognition—and accolades—as a philosopher than Emerson. this acknowledgment is not something attributed to Cavell’s writing but to one’s own reading of it. The puzzle or paradox of inheriting Cavell’s work.124  LaRocca and if we are to account for a knowledge of Cavell’s work. perhaps we should not only ask what is going on in philosophy that his work would not be taken up in straightforward ways. Why is a reader not guided by Cavell’s voice instead of thrown off by it? If Cavell’s work is sometimes invoked in order to be shelved. is knowing how to find or sense when our reading lies between apology and praise—that is. take the trouble to deny that he is a philosopher. Cavell has addressed how the quality of Emerson’s writing is tied to his fate in philosophy. The mystery is that anyone would.

The interlocking network of these .”45 Since affirmed. which he titles “An Audience for Cavell’s Philosophy. before the argument begins. Stephen Mulhall commences his foreword to Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary. say. what does or should Cavell’s responsibility look like? And why would one be led to believe that such culpability was his. ours? There are several philosophers who have not only extensively and eloquently engaged Cavell’s work but who have also staked something of their own work and reputation on Cavell’s viability and significance. and. Instead. how we do undertake it.”44 This fact. . is “something that has caused me considerable disquiet over the years. initiates his study by suggesting that Cavell’s reception in philosophy is partially a result of what may be called certain failures to hear what Cavell is saying—as if Cavell’s voice gets in the way of our capacity to register its sense. In other words. or know that we are in need of it? Cavell’s very insistence on the human voice might have been heard as an effort to make the struggles concerning the voice into a theme for philosophy.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  125 In conversation Cavell has asked whether he is responsible for how his work has been received. . his readers are likely to find that the difficulties they most often encounter in gaining access to Cavell’s thought are something that he has already identified and explored within it.46 And he concludes his opening remarks with an assurance: It might be best to think of this Foreword as an attempt to make initially plausible the possibility that many of the obstacles in the way of establishing an audience for Cavell’s philosophy—of recognizing it as philosophy at all—are not only internal to the nature of his particular project (and therefore unavoidable but not necessarily insuperable) but are also central topics within it and so fundamental to Cavell’s self-understanding. and not. Cavell’s writing is heard as his insistence on his own particular voice. in Hearing Things: Voice and Method in the Writing of Stanley Cavell. . .” since that reaction “tends to make the reception of my work as a whole grudging. How can we account for this kind of deafness in ourselves? And if training is needed to hear such things. . Cavell adds. and to a degree that is both exhilarating and threatening. . more recently. Admittedly. in Little Did I Know he dedicated appreciable space to a firsthand assessment of this responsibility: he admits that he wishes to understand why episodes of his interpretation “make certain readers impatient.” by saying: “A key motivation behind the writing of this book is therefore to overcome the undeserved but deleterious consequences of the belated discovery and the unfashionable tone of Cavell’s philosophy.47 Timothy Gould. their subject. some of these works transfer another valence of anxiety—one that leads their authors to defend themselves. however. even when its results are not challenged.

Can contemporary professional philosophy recognize its ancient origins in spiritual exercises.”50 This discovery. depending on the audience. that most often repels. “come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. writing about Cavell is more aptly seen as writing about oneself—where the act of criticism becomes self-critical. where phi- . or incites? Has style become content or. . as a prelude or a coda to one’s own? Does Cavell’s writing impel or compel a more explicitly confessional. however. begin this way. not content. first of all. . a fictional tale—as it happens. as Cavell has asked: “What does it betoken about the relation of philosophy and literature that a piece of writing can be seen to consist of what is for all the world a philosophical essay preceding.126  LaRocca c­ oncepts of voice.48 It is difficult to adjudicate whether Gould’s is an apt description of someone whose philosophical writing has betrayed itself or of a community that has betrayed someone’s philosophical writing. even turning into. If this holds. but that he has thought them thoughtfully—as if with his whole body. or seeing anew—perhaps something familiar but as yet unseen. as described for example by Pierre Hadot. a fictional confession from a prison cell?”49 In this light. as if admitting in his writing that he has a body—and so a history. autobiographical. and fictional. and personal manner has tended to confine the discussion of Cavell’s writing within a series of sterile controversies. degeneration in reading habits and aptitudes more generally. or thought all thoughts that can be thought. If Mulhall and Gould. style. or “personal” manner as part of that response? Is it this question of style. then we share the trauma of seeing our words and thoughts. is not one of relief. both philosophers. as Cavell has said. to defend or defeat—certain prevailing habits of reading his work. The only way to counter the risk is to admit that such confessions are being made and that a writer should try. confuses. . where the moments of vision are realized as revision—seeing. Thus one fate of his writing is to raise issues and controversies about itself that obscure precisely the original issues that the writing was intended to raise. explaining Cavell’s philosophy to others as Mulhall and Gould aim to do is complicated by the burden of having to explain—or. require a justification for heeding Cavell’s voice—perhaps dangerously. autobiographical. where certain sounds that have been perennially muted or drowned out or otherwise unheard come back into an audible sonic register. This may be why writing about Cavell poses the risk that more is getting said than one wants to say—or wishes others to know. or as Stewart suggested above. but shame. to take responsibility for every one of her sentences. It is not that Cavell has thought our thoughts. Philosophy in this key is critical. In this way. should we infer that writing about Cavell requires more from us than writing about some other philosopher? Does such writing. a personal history. Tuition in this respect is akin to a reeducation in reading. as Emerson says.

In other words. remains unconvincing as a method or style for such writing to assume.53 In the context of professional philosophy. that each is a dimension of the other” and “that there are events of a life that turn its dedication toward philosophy.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  127 losophy matured through the methodology of autobiography and spiritual confession?51 Today one will be recommended to write a memoir or a piece of fiction but not to let such exposures inhabit a philosophical text. Until the appearance of Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory. then by virtue of its intimacy with the self who writes in remembrance. autobiography. meaning. I am suggesting that insofar as we trace certain lines of a genealogy and inheritance in philosophy. or intimate. Rothman’s defense of Cavell as writing a memoir instead of an autobiography does not save Cavell from certain prevailing criticisms of his writing as a personal. it is also autobiographical. William Rothman suggests that we not consider Cavell’s The World Viewed “autobiographical” but. The debate over canon formation and the establishment of philosophical authority continues to unfold. to make the work seem less personal and thereby to inflate its philosophical credentials. Perhaps this is why reading Cavell instigates such strong readerly reactions. implicates a reader in this kind of intimacy between bodies and texts and leaves him or her haunted by the notion that philosophy depends on it. instead. we might assume. we might benefit from how these specific reading practices rouse a continual self-reflection on the nature. and even as “philosophical diary. It would seem this description is not worth contesting in Cavell’s writing. Writing about Cavell.” Cavell’s most overt and least self-conscious performance of the interlacing relationship between philosophy and autobiography was A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises.52 But if a memoir—even a metaphysical one—engages a history of personal memories. epistolary. treat it as a “metaphysical memoir”—a distinction meant. The memoir—including its fictions—is part of the process and the truths it illuminates: both immanent and ineluctable. defined as they sometimes are by attraction and sometimes by aversion. and potencies of reading more generally. how much less worth denial: if A Pitch of Philosophy gave us a first indication of how this is possible. a work promoted as memoir. it would seem. Cavell . at least consciously. In the book’s “Overture” Cavell writes that “there is an internal connection between philosophy and autobiography. self-reflexive.”54 Does the “internal connection” confirm the notion that philosophy is always autobiographical even when not consciously staged as such—that is. it seems the distinction between memoir and autobiography. Little Did I Know actualizes it to a new degree. even when not presented with the directness and transparency we find in A Pitch of Philosophy and Little Did I Know? Cavell’s work stands as evidence that a philosopher need not abandon his or her body in order to write philosophy. even when articulately defined by Rothman.

or instead follow dictations laid down by profession or by fashion or by some more private identification. . for Cavell. . it threatens to dispossess readers of their relation to. of itself. for example. philosophy. And if it is understood that asking questions an audience cannot or does not want to hear endangers a work’s viability. I note that Benjamin is alive to the question of whether I am in possession of my own experience. even if often with difficulty.128  LaRocca ­ escribes losing touch with this attention to difference as a cost of Richard d Rorty’s project. constitute one of its achievements. whether Walter Benjamin is to be considered a philosopher. but because.” readers must learn to hear the sound. something “achieved” “at the expense of giving up the question of the question of philosophy. That the claim to philosophy has become inherently questionable is part of my conviction about philosophy. So what? Am I prepared to conclude that Benjamin is a philosopher if Wittgenstein is one? I am much more interested in whether the way I have arrived at the conjunction has created philosophy in me. . and perhaps nurture one. he exposes the stakes of forcing disciplinary boundaries in philosophy—not because such a preoccupation is wasteful or embarrassing or at odds with the spirit of meaningful investigation. So it will. if anything. In other words.56 The difficulty of hearing it in Cavell’s work may. Unlike the scenario Wittgenstein imag- .”55 It is clear that. past interest in the distinctions between philosophy and other modes of thought or of the presentation of thought. In one view the very thing that Cavell’s work makes possible for philosophy is keeping alive the question of an ongoing inquiry into the nature of philosophical investigation itself. or should be. and keep one. Yet to preserve our interest in distinctions and criteria—what counts as philosophy and why—returns us to the very issues that have complicated the reading of Cavell’s prose. and use of or for. in favor of an idea that we are. in palpable ways. as recently. Since the sound of writing “makes all the difference. To get past the “in a sense yes and in a sense no” response. that calls for philosophy now. we can either neglect the work or lean in closer to see what in the work solicits these reactions.57 The fate of a work lies with its audience—whether it can find one. achieving a clear definition of what philosophy is does not engender a safe domain where “philosophy” takes place. getting past an interest in such distinctions has a deleterious effect on our chances for recognizing our interest in what defines our motives to undertake philosophy as a mode of expression that calls its identity and inheritance into question. rather. it deprives philosophy of its sanguinity with the world it aims to serve and inhabit—the space that both inspires it and sustains it. In a forum for the journal Philosophical Investigations in which Cavell was invited along with several others to offer remarks on his experiences reading Wittgenstein. of what it is. fall to me to be asked.

In short. 9. these remarks about the nature or definition of philosophical expression—what it means to speak philosophically and be heard. ed. 3. Skepticism. 175–76. and Tragedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Among other occasions. 2010). and undertaken anew. Stanley Cavell (Contemporary Philosophers in Focus) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Morality. Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism (New York: Continuum. except the term “charmed. 8.” Emerson’s Transcendental Etudes. ed. Stanley Cavell. 2010). eds. Richard Eldridge. for Cavell. to manifest and maintain a voice for philosophy. through such meditation “philosophy becomes the education of grownups. in all of Cavell’s subsequent work that references the term. will be of perpetual significance. CA: Stanford University Press.58 How strange to discover that resistance to Cavell’s work may be coextensive with its availability for insight into human expression. Cavell commented on the nature of “belatedness” (as it pertains to his work and its reception) at the conferences “Stanley Cavell and Literary Criticism” (University of Edinburgh. the hyphen is present. ed... The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein. Precisely because Cavell’s writing engages the core of Emerson’s work—on the writer’s life as a reader—we are continually invited to an awareness of our relationship to texts. 4. One typographical usage note: in the original quotation from Cavell (1979) “philosophy becomes the education of grownups”—he doesn’t use a hyphen in “grownups. 7.. Notes I wish to thank an anonymous reader for the journal for helpful remarks on an earlier version of this essay. reviewed and revised. 2003).” Our best hope. 2011). David Justin Hodge (Stanford. and in all the secondary literature by others.The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  129 ines in which “we are combating a trend” that “will die out” and find ourselves in some future where “the way we are arguing against it will no longer be understood. Richard Eldridge and Bernie Rhie. addressed. 1979).” However. 1. 6. 125. In our reading we are called to attest to the aesthetics of that experience through our writing. Thus. 5. save the times when I directly quote from the 1979 source. 2. 49. can only be addressed in a vigilant practice of reading and through provisional reports on that experience through writing—work that shows how we create and are created by the texts we read. 2005). 2008) and “Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies” (Harvard University. “The Philosopher in American Life (Toward Thoreau and Emerson). I use the hyphen throughout the essay. 2003). Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory (Stanford. . 304. Stanley Cavell. people will not see why all this needed saying. and not just as philosophers but as readers. CA: Stanford University Press. to find or make readers—will always need to be said. Contending with Stanley Cavell (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cavell mentions his account more recently in Little Did I Know.” which is drawn from personal conversation with Cavell. Stanley Cavell.” the question of what it means to speak philosophically. The quotations in this line are selected from Russell Goodman.

. UK: Cambridge University Press. 2013). 123. America. 1992). Must We Mean What We Say? A Book of Essays (Cambridge. 27. Gustaaf Van Cromphout. Eldridge. 25. The Claim to Community: Essays on Stanley Cavell and Political Philosophy (Stanford. 1999). American Philosophy and the Romantic Tradition (Cambridge. and Crary-Shieh volumes are reviewed by Michael Fischer in “Using Stanley Cavell” cited above. Andrew Taylor and Áine Kelly (New York: Routledge.” in The Emerson Dilemma: Essays on Emerson and Social Reform. Joel Myerson. Stanley Cavell. Goodman. 12. and Experimental Writing (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. See Stanley Cavell. On Leaving: A Reading in Emerson (Cambridge. 1994). Almost Nothing (New York: Routledge. For brevity I note only the single-author monographs. Simon Critchley. 11. 2010). and Film: The Idea of America. The Eldridge. 28. 13. “Using Stanley Cavell. 15.. ed. The Gleam of Light: Moral Perfectionism and .” in Stanley Cavell. Ibid. Stanley Cavell. The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism (New York: Oxford University Press. Emancipating Pragmatism: Emerson. 4. UK: Cambridge University Press. “Mr. and Laura Dassow Walls. S. “The Uncanniness of the Ordinary. 2006).130  LaRocca 9.” Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell. Poise. and the Ordinary (Cambridge: Polity Press. Sam McGuire Worley. 1976). 17. First We Read. Emerson’s Ethics (Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Jonathan Levin. 1999)... 22. and Espen Hammer. and the Role of the Cultural Critic (Albany: State University of New York Press.. Reading Cavell (New York: Routledge. David LaRocca (New York: Bloomsbury. 26. Ibid. Our Preposterous Use of Literature: Emerson and the Nature of Reading (Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 21. Very Little. ed. Alice Crary and Sanford Shieh. Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. The Poetics of Transition: Emerson. Ibid. MA: Harvard University Press. Less Legible Meanings: Between Poetry and Philosophy in the Work of Emerson (Stanford. 2009). see my “Reading Cavell Reading. see page 14 of Cavell’s In Quest of the Ordinary. 1999). Literature. Eldridge and Rhie. Ibid. no. McMillin. and Place: Toward an Emersonian Theory of Democratic Citizenship. 4–5. 20. Esquith’s essay “Power. The Senses of Walden (An Expanded Edition) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Goodman.. eds. 6. See Stephen L. 2000). 3. Subjectivity. 502. 1988). Stanley Cavell: Skepticism. CA: Stanford University Press. ed. Emerson.. 24. Ibid. For example. T. Stephen Mulhall. Michael Fischer.. in chronological order: Pamela J. 16. 32–33. 1985). 2010). 18. Jazz. 2002).” In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 203. Gregory Garvey (Athens: University Press of Georgia. 23. Robert D. The Other Emerson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. and Branka Arsić. 2010). 2001). 10. Richardson. Michael Magee. Schirmeister. eds. Ibid.” Philosophy and Literature 32. 2006). Stanley Cavell. Thoreau. CA: Stanford University Press. Sandra Harbert Petrulionis. 36n31. 7. 26–41. T. Contending with Stanley Cavell. 154. Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1 (2008): 199. For more on quotation and paraphrase in Cavell’s work. 2013). 19. Ibid. NC: Duke University Press. Naoko Saito. and Andrew Norris. Russell Goodman. Pragmatism. 14. 2001). Stanley Cavell. and American Literary Modernism (Durham. 2004). eds. Harold Bloom. Paul Grimstad and Branka Arsic´. 1997).

” See Cavell. ed. 41. Stanley Cavell. Ibid. 51. Peirce Society 36. 62n5. 1980). Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grown-ups (New York: Fordham University Press. Jennifer RatnerRosenhagen. 22. 39. William Rothman.” in Transactions of the Charles S. Cavell describes his essay “What’s the Use of Calling Emerson a Pragmatist?” “as a brief gloss” on his observation that “in philosophy it is the sound which makes all the difference. Timothy Gould.. Philosophy and Animal Life (New York: Columbia University Press.” Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 45. “Staying the Course. 37. and Christian Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stanley Cavell. vii. Ibid. 32. 1992). 94. Lawrence Rhu. Davidson. 2006). 689. “Must We Mean What We Say?” Must We Mean What We Say? (New York: Scribner.” Philosophical Investigations 24. Stephen Mulhall. G. 57. 54. 2012). Ibid. 46. 2010). Ibid. See Cavell. 4 (2000): 477–501. Stanley Cavell. 29. John McDowell. trans. 47. 43. and Richard Deming. 35. and James (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 259.. 36. Emerson. and Hollywood Movies (New York: Fordham University Press. Essays and Lectures. 38. ed. Culture and Value. Reading Cavell’s The World Viewed: A Philosophical Perspective on Film (Detroit: Wayne State University Press. H. Andrea Kurston. Listening on All Sides: Toward an Emersonian Ethics of Reading (Stanford. Naoko Saito and Paul Standish. Getting Even. 35. Cavell. von Wright. . Ibid. 1994). 40. 36n10. 49. American Spaces of Conversion: The Conductive Imaginaries of Edwards. 1969). 2 (2001): 94–95. Ibid. Arnold I. 30. Companionship. 126. Estimating Emerson. 48. “Being Odd. Pierre Hadot. 1998). Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary (New York: Oxford University Press. 2000). 2009).The Education of Grown-ups: An Aesthetics of Reading Cavell  131 Education in Dewey and Emerson (New York: Fordham University Press. 34. Philosophy as Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. 52. 1–2. Cora Diamond. Ibid. 33. 479. and Cary Wolfe. 56. Stanley Cavell’s American Dream: Shakespeare. MA: Harvard University Press. George Stack.. A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises (Cambridge. Ibid. 2.” 15. no. 43. 58. 57. 1994). Vincent Colapietro. 192. 1990). Nietzsche and Emerson: An Elective Affinity (Athens: Ohio University Press.. Pitch of Philosophy. 2010). Ludwig Wittgenstein. 2007). “On Wittgenstein. CA: Stanford University Press. Peter Dula. 2011). trans. 56. Philosophy. and LaRocca. Ian Hacking..” in In Quest of the Ordinary. “Let’s All Go to the Movies: Two Thumbs Up for Hugo Münsterberg’s The Photoplay (1916). 58.. ed. “Staying the Course. ed.. Cavell. Cavell. 11. 44. italics by Colapietro. Hearing Things: Voice and Method in the Writing of Stanley Cavell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 477. Stanley Cavell. 494. Ibid. Ibid. American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Emerson. 1995). Peter Winch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ibid. 42. 55. Ibid. no. 2006). viii. 50. 53. Little Did I Know. Stanley Cavell. 31.. 494. xvi. Michael Chase (New York: Oxford University Press.