[percy-l] Kramer's new book

Lawrence Rhu rhul at gwm.sc.edu
Fri Dec 16 15:58:35 EST 2005

Re Kramer, a thought:

Kramer, in my reading, early and late, never imagines doing without the therapy of conversation, however helpful, even transformative, pharmaceutical intervention may be.  Who would deny anti-depressants to the soul seriously afflicted with a mood disorder that strands it unreachably in silence and/or circularity, the treadmill of despair?  But their possible effectiveness is a point of departure for productive talk as a means of care and healing, for relationship and community both adaptive and beyond adaptation.  Such therapeutic conversations, I assume, would be triadic exchanges between animals that talk, like you and me, embedded in the symbolic economy of language, which Helen Keller discovers so decisively for Percy.  Kramer is undeniably utopian, and he characterizes his book as polemical (e.g., who's for depression?), which isn't a conversible mode.  He is also well aware of increasingly fine calibrations, observations, etc. that go with brain-imaging technology and computer-processing of data, so he celebrates the measurable, the quantifiable, as knowledge of great significance, but not as enough in itself to see the soul on its way through many dark passages.  For this reason, Carl Elliott's end of this literary conversation (specifically with Kramer and about Percy) warrants a thoughtful hearing.  There is a dialogue between the two of them, and often thanks to Percy, that moves the pertinence of Percy's distinction(dyadic/triadic) into the world many of us nowadays inhabit for better or for worse.


Lawrence F. Rhu
Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC  29208
Tel:  803 777 0144
Fax:  803 777 9064
Email:  rhul at sc.edu

>>> rgeckert at yahoo.com 12/15/05 11:41 AM >>>
  It is from "Is a Theory of Man Possile" which is in _Signposts in a Strange Land_.

J Rivas-Pita <juliorivas at gmail.com> wrote:
  Dear Robert,

In case you could spare a few minutes, could you tell us something
more on the last quote from Percy, "I can even visualize..."? Is the
essay (or interview) it comes from available online?

Many thanks and all best wishes,


On 6/24/05, Robert Eckert wrote:
> Dear List, 
> Peter Kramer, the author of _Listening to Prozac_, recently published
> _Against Depression_. 
> The last chapter of _LP_ is "The Message in the Capsule" and deal
> extensively with Percy. Kramer corresponded with Percy at some point. 
> However, to me he gets Percy quite wrong. 
> On p.265 of _AG_ Kramer writes: 
> "...Percy's position blurs distinctions we might want to make. It overstates
> the case only slightly to say that for Percy, there is no difference between
> treating epilepsy and treating 
> alienation. Both are best approached via faith and revelation, not
> technology." 
> It amazes me that Kramer could have read Percy's nonfiction, which he states
> he has (e-mail), and miss Percy's use of the Dyadic/Triadic distinction,
> especially: 
> "I can even visualize the hospital of the future in which the first signs
> the patient sees in the corridor do not read INTERNAL MEDICINE, SURGERY,
> OB-GYN, DERMATOLOGY, PSYCHIATRY UPSTAIRS, but rather two big signs just
> inside the front door, one pointing left, one right (I won't say which is
> which), but one reading DYADIC DISORDERS; the other, TRIADIC DISORDERS." 
> To Percy, the distinction is so profound that he feels the very architecture
> of the hospitals of the future could be based upon it! 
> It is a shame that Kramer has broadly disseminated such a profound and
> fundamental misreading of Percy's work. 
> Robert Eckert 
> Rochester, New York 
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