where the writers are

I won't restrain myself when given the chance to introduce Kafka into a Shakespeare discussion.

From Zadie Smith's review in the online New York Review Of Books concerning "The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head: Franz Kafka: A Biographical Essay" by Louis Begley comes this observation.

"The whole point of Kafka is his uncommonness. Whatever Brod explains, we feel sure Kafka would leave unexplained; whichever conventional interpretation he foists on the works, the works themselves repel. We think of Shakespeare this way, too: a writer sullied by our attempts to define him. In this sense the idea of a literary genius is a gift we give ourselves, a space so wide that we can play in it forever."


I believe all the plays of Shakespeare were written by one individual, and have absolutely no reason to think that that person is not William Shakespeare. To think that one person could not attain the knowledge needed to infuse the plays denigrates thought and intelligence. To deny there is genius in the world is an attack on art itself.

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But what is genius?  Isn't that relative?  What you think of as "genius" may be what you think of as genius alone.  Right?  I think staying power sometimes equals genius. Or the times allow for past work to re-emerge, such as what happened with Kate Chopin.  Times create what is held.  Shakespeare has held, so is that a definition of genius? 

Can genius be a trend?  Is that a bad thing? Kafka has held.  Okay, this definition seems to be working for me.

But I don't think saying that there is no genius destroys art or the view of art.  It's merely an argument.  As is saying that to say there is no genius destroys things.  But can't both be true?

Clearly, I don't like conflict.


Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Hi, Jessica. Always glad to

Hi, Jessica. Always glad to see someone with 'dale' in their name. 

I suspect that genius is the ability to be objective about oneself. This fact might never show up in the resulting creation, but is necessary to assemble something unique from the facts at hand.

I don't mean to imply that genius is restricted to artistic endeavour. And I don't mean to imply that there can not be art without genius. I was speaking specifically about Shakespeare, and the fact that his genius is dismissed as the fuel for his creations.

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Genius Defined

It seems to me that what you're both doing is describing the product of genius rather than defining the quality itself. I have no better ideas to offer, unfortunately; maybe genius is something that can't be defined as a discrete thing, but can only be recognized by what it produces.

One of my favorite quotes, of course, is Oscar Wilde's going through customs: "I have nothing to declare but my genius."

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Mitch Cullin...

...gives it a shot: http://www.redroom.com/blog/mitch-cullin/the-genius-genus

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Okay, then

Who? is the genius.

Damn, I don't know.  I think I'll just go back to reading King Lear.


Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I think Huntington Sharp hits the nail on the head. We can only recognize genius by what it produces, but that says nothing of the genius itself. Man. I think you are absolutely correct.

Lhea J. Love

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An analogy

This is my first entry at this site.  Following is my half cent on the relationship between a person's work and her personhood as far as genius is concerned.

Suppose Pol Pot never committed any of those acts. Would he still be The Pol Pot we know? Further, suppose he did entertain all those intentions but stopped short (or, couldn't)of carrying them out.  Do any of these scenarios make his evil as/more/less than it was?

I find the above similar to the question of determining an artist's genius. Would Kafka be The Kafka if he had not written a word? I am sure there are a lot of people who have ideas similar to those of Kafka. For whatever reason, however, they may not materialize them. What does such a circumstance do for Kafka's claim to genius? 

Sorry for so many rhetorical questions. I am very confused.


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No reason to apologize, Virendra! These are excellent points. Believe it or not, when I posted my little observation on genius, I didn't realize I was just restating the one koan everybody knows: "If a tree falls in a lonely forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" I think you're restating that as well.

The answer to that riddle, of course, depends on how you define "sound." I'd be tempted to answer "no," because my idea of "sound" involves both the sound waves and that which detects them. Maybe the same principle should be applied to genius.

Welcome to Red Room. I hope you'll continue to take part in the many conversations that are always happening here.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Been off for a while and hence the lag.

I think you are right that my point is derivative of the quote. But, I would hesitate in saying that genius exists only in its (perceptible) work. For example, I find it conceivable (and, I think it may be true) that there are some people who are called geniuses but haven't produced anything or for that matter, aren't producing anything at the time in question. 

Thanks for the welcome!