As part of an assignment in a course on Criticism I read an essay called “The Intentional Fallacy” (The Verbal Icon, W.K. Wimsatt). The author claims that studying the intentions of the poet or any other biographical details is totally irrelevant when judging his work. I like Wimsatt’s effort towards an objective criticism: a critic should not value a poem by Sylvia Plath or Owen because he pities their tragic personal stories…that’s a temptation to be avoided. However, the ideal of the new critics to leave aside everything that is not in the text seems to me a well-intentioned chimera: some of the very tools the poet uses –images, metaphors, etc– do not come from his text, they come from somewhere else. Continue reading
I’ve been for a couple of months already systematically reading the Comedy. Even though it has been hard work, I only regret not to have done it before. As an Eliot fan, reading Dante and discovering the references in their context and not as isolated quotes has been very enriching. It makes a lot of difference! Continue reading
How do you read “The Waste Land?” It’s sort of a difficult question, isn’t it? But I was asked exactly that question a few days ago. I started mumbling something while trying in vain to come up with an intelligent answer… Back home I had more time to think about it. So here goes a first attempt. I hope it can be considered intelligent.
A first answer can always be: “as you read poetry”, that is, enjoying its beauty -rhythm and music-, musing on the images from the text letting them flow in your imagination in search for meaning, etc… (the “etc” can be very long). But with “The Waste Land” this answer is not very useful. Continue reading
You may wonder, dear blog, what relation can there possibly be between ‘Substantial Form’ and ‘DNA’… I share your curiosity and amazement. But thanks to my beloved copy of Purgatorio we have an answer:
‘Substance’ for Dante and his scholastic sources emphatically does not mean, as in modern usage, a material substance, but is rather the potentiality to be an independent ‘subsisting’ being…
So far this matches my Aristotelian Metaphysics lessons, or at least what I remember from them. But, check this out: Continue reading
Some years ago an Irish friend of mine organized a seminar called “Ideas have Consequences”. I liked the title. It recently came back to my mind when I finished Inferno. Probably Dante would agree to tag the Comedy with something like “Actions have Consequences”: all the Comedy -and probably all medieval literature- rests on that idea. Think of Lancelot in The Quest of the Holy Grail. He cannot get to the grail because of his actions with Guinevere. But don’t understand the “because” as an arbitrary punishment. Continue reading
As last post was about phanopoeia I thought it might be nice to keep reflecting on Pound’s ways of charging words. So I started digging in my memory in order to try to come up with a good example of logopoeia. But first, lets go back to Pound in ”How to Read” to see his definition:
Logopoeia, “the dance of the intellect among words,” that is to say, it employs words not only for their direct meaning, but it takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word, its usual concomitants, of its known acceptances, and of ironical play.
That means words can be charged not only by their own meaning but also making use of the context we usually find them in. Words are not isolated species, they live in a context, they are used in certain ways and by changing their natural context we can highlight them and, as a consequence, enhance and expand their meaning. The effect is similar to having an eskimo walking on a caribbean beach… it raises amazement, like “what is he doing there”? Continue reading
Some weeks ago I moved to Haifa from Jerusalem, well it’s already over a month… tempus fugit. As I still have some work to do in Jerusalem I have found myself spending quite a bit of time in buses commuting between the two cities. So far I can say it has been an enlightening experience: first I realized that everybody has got an ipod. I know this is not a great discovery, but one thing is to know that Steve Jobs is making millions out of them, and quite another to actually see everybody plugging their headphones to their ears as soon as they get to their seat in the bus.
In my last trip, after making some telephone calls, I opened my book filled with a desire to make good use of the trip, just to feel very lonely: books have definitely lost the battle against Jobs. There was just one girl a few seats in fronto of me that was reading. Had I been looking for a wife I would have tried to start a conversation with her -at least you can be sure you will be actually able to talk about something interesting with someone that reads-, but as I’m not looking for anybody I just sank to the depths of Hell with my copy of Inferno. I guess the result is similar: you chose either Dante to guide your thoughts or Rihanna as your companion… hammering your ears with meaningless words… It’s just a matter of… taste?