End

49. “Sense of an ending, paradigm of apocalypse”

And of course we have it now, the sense of an ending. It has not diminished, and is as endemic to what we call modernism as apocalyptic utopianism is to political revolution. When we live in the mood of end-dominated crisis, certain now-familiar patterns of assumption become evident. Yeats will help me to illustrate them.

– Frank Kermode: ‘Sense of An Ending’, Oxford University Press, 1967

Indeed, Kermode argues that our apocalyptic views of disorder, of crisis and perpetual transition in the contemporary world are contemporary ways of making sense of the world, of giving it an intelligible order. They are variations on a paradigm of sense-making statements which are constant in human history.

– Leo Bersani: ‘Variations On a Paradigm’, New York Times, 11 June 1967

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50. “Structure mere successiveness into patterns”

We need ends and kairoi and the pleroma, even now when the history of the world has so terribly and so untidily expanded its endless successiveness. We re-create the horizons we have abolished, the structures that have collapsed; and we do so in terms of the old patterns, adapting them to our new worlds. Ends, for example, become a matter of images, figures for what does not exist except humanly. Our stories must recognize mere successiveness but not be merely successive; Ulysses, for example, may be said to unite the irreducible chronos of Dublin with the irreducible kairoi of Homer. In the middest, we look for a fullness of time, for beginning, middle, and end in concord.

– Frank Kermode: ‘Sense of An Ending’, Oxford University Press, 1967

For if what Kermode persistently refers to as merely successive, “real” time were in itself but another fiction, then he would be committed only to a study of various orders of fiction rather than to a study of fictions as changing responses to a hypothetically changeless and formless reality. And fictions may be sense-depriving as well as sense-making.

– Leo Bersani: ‘Variations On a Paradigm’, New York Times, 11 June 1967

53. “Make sense of their span fictive concords with origins and ends”

Men like poets, rush ‘into the middest’, in medias res, when they are born; they also die in media rebus, and to make sense of their span they need fictive concords with origins and ends, such as give meaning to lives and to poems. The End they imagine will reflect their irreducibly intermediary preoccupations.

– Frank Kermode: ‘Sense of An Ending’, Oxford University Press, 1967