The Embankment

hulmeI’ve been carefully reading The Rule of Metaphor of Paul Ricoeur during the last weeks. It is a fascinating book, though at times a little repetitive. Yet, I don’t want to write about it here… but about a very striking discussion on the self-referentiality of poetry that really surprised me. Ricoeur discusses Jakobson’s poetic function together with some ideas of Genette, like the following paragraph:

the sole function of every figure is to hint, in its particular way, at the poetic quality of discourse that contains it (…). In the emblem that the classical ‘sail of the ship’ has become for us, we can read at once both ‘This is a ship’ and ‘Look: poetry!’ (172). Continue reading “The Embankment”

Ulysses: The Man in the Macintosh

james-joyce-ezra-pound-ford-madox-ford-john-quinnI’ve been calmly re-reading Ulysses lately. I was forgetting what a nice feeling is to dip into a book without any anxiety of finding something intelligent to say about it. So after a quiet saunder I came to Hades and met the man in the Macintosh once more; one of the famous ‘riddles’ of  Ulysses. Dignam dies and Bloom wonders:

Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? Now who is he I’d like to know? Now I’d give a trifle to know who he is. Always someone turns up you never dreamt of. A fellow could live on his lonesome all his life.

To be honest, I don’t think the identity of the man in the Macintosh is important at all. Or rather, it might be if we were are able to say something about it. Why is he there? What does it mean?… Just ‘finding it’ is really meaningless. An allusion or a symbol cannot be just a riddle. It needs to have some charge of meaning if its aim is to contribute to the text. This is the main reason why this post is completely useless. Continue reading “Ulysses: The Man in the Macintosh”

The Nymphs Are Departed (II) or The Most Ancient Recipe for a Poem

eliotSome days ago I came across “the most ancient recipe for a poem”. I found it in a book called “Image and Experience” by Graham Hough. The book was gathering dust in my favorite second-hand book store. It’s a wonderful book; like a cold blast of common sense of common-sense criticism. Perfectly suited for our post-modern world, I might say. Pity nobody is printing the books nowadays… But I’m digressing. So, back to the recipe:

“The most ancient recipe for a poem (is) the poem in which first a natural object is presented, and then some reflection on human experience that arises from it, or is in some way parallel to it” Continue reading “The Nymphs Are Departed (II) or The Most Ancient Recipe for a Poem”

Aziz and Fielding

I just finished “A Passage to India” by E. M. Forster, and it was hard… very hard. It required and effort to sit down and attack the last 50 pages to get the job done, and it was not because the plot was boring or India is not interesting topic. Rather, it was because neither Fielding, Aziz, Adela or any other of the characters failed to grab my imagination. Virginia Woolf is not a saint of my devotion, but I think she can explain very accurately my lack of interest in the book. In her essay “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown”, she defines a novel as “a very remarkable machine for the creation of human character”, yet “ it is because this essence, this character-making power, has evaporated that novels are for the most part the soulless bodies we know, cumbering our tables and clogging our minds”. Continue reading “Aziz and Fielding”

Nausicaa: Gerty and Isolde

People who have studied Ulysses and The Waste Land are familiar with what Eliot called “The Mythical Method”. Guided by Eliot’s review of Ulysses, they understand it as a way to replace the narrative structure of a text. In other words, myth takes charge of granting coherence and structure to the otherwise disconnected images and episodes. However, I think the use of myth both in Ulysses and The Waste Land is not aimed to give structure to the text, but rather to charge it with meaning. In fact, paraphrasing Ezra Pound it would be more accurate to speak about mythopoeia, but I will not go into that… I just want to show how these parallels work. Continue reading “Nausicaa: Gerty and Isolde”

The Faith of Leonora Ashburham & Julia Flyte

Some days ago I was asked to talk about the representation of the Catholic faith in some English novels in the XX century. I was reading then The Good Soldier of Ford Madox Ford, so, naturally, the figure of Leonora Ashburham was the first to come to mind. Yet, is Leonora a “typical” representation of the Catholic? Is there a common way of representing “the Catholic” in the first half of the XX century? As I had never read trying to identify those patterns of representation, assuming they exist, I did not have an answer, and I still don’t. Nevertheless I think that convert writers such as Graham Green, Evelyn Waugh, Chesterton, Muriel Spark and Ford place faith as a very distinctive quality of their Catholic characters, despite the significant differences  found in their works. Continue reading “The Faith of Leonora Ashburham & Julia Flyte”

Silence in As I Lay Dying

“As I Lay Dying” is very much concerned with the problem posed by “words”. This issue show up at different levels. The most obvious one is the contrast between the factual reality characters experience and the ways they react to it. The gap between the external world and the one expressed by the interior monologues is huge and its expressed not only in what they think about and what they actually say; but also in the way they express it. Faulkner has no problem in granting the interior voices a verbal capacity–a vocabulary–way higher from what should be expected from white trash. He seems to be ready to give up realism rules in order to express that the inner world of those people is a serious reality. Continue reading “Silence in As I Lay Dying”