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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Vendler
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0035  Friday, 9 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Lee Gibson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jan 1998 14:29:53 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0032 Re: Vendler

[2]     From:   Peter C. Herman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Jan 1998 13:54:30 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0032  Re: Vendler


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lee Gibson <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jan 1998 14:29:53 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 9.0032 Re: Vendler
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0032 Re: Vendler

I have only recently returned to the, so I have missed some of this
dialogue. The following from Robert Frost may be of some interest here.

A poem is best read in the light of all the other poems ever written.
We read A the better to read B (we have to start somewhere).  We read B
the better to read C, C the better to read D, D the better to go back
and get something more out of A.  Progress is not the aim, but
circulation.  The thing is to get among the poems where they hold each
other apart in their places as the stars do.

Lee Gibson
Department of English
Southern Methodist University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter C. Herman <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Jan 1998 13:54:30 -0800
Subject: 9.0032  Re: Vendler
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0032  Re: Vendler

>Vendler is a brilliant critic who, unlike some early modernists I know,
>considers poetry a living art NOW. Her aim is obviously to bring
>novelty, not pedantry, to our reading of the sonnets, and she does so in
>a way which brings objective clarity to some formal features that have
>generally gone unnoticed - for instance, the frequent proliferation of
>what she calls "key-words" and related morphemes in embedded  forms (not
>usually anagrams) throughout individual sonnets. These are revelations
>which I, at least, would rather save from the deck of a sinking ship
>than even the most sophisticated book of historicist criticism.

Some responses to Professor Moschovakis's post. First, if we are
enjoined to remember "who wrote that 'the poet's eye, in a fine frenzy
rolling,/ Doth glance...' etc.," we ought to also remember than in its
context, Theseus' lines are no compliment to the poet, the lover, or the
madman. He is dismissing "These antic fables, [and] these fairy toys."
All three misperceive, thanks to the "tricks" of the "strong
imagination." And he concludes this speech by exclaiming "How easy is a
bush supposed a bear," a line that again does not exactly exalt the
power to create. Theseus, in context, is no friend of the imagination.
And furthermore, Hippolyta begins her response as a rebuttal to
Theseus's clear contempt for what's transpired: "BUT all the story of
the night told over . . . . "  In other words, we need to read this
speech contextually. And (I would argue) we need to read this speech
within the context of the antitheatrical and antipoetic prejudices that
Theseus is alluding to.

Which leads me back to Vendler's book. First, I reject the notion that
insisting upon reading historically entails importing pedantry rather
than novelty into our reading of the sonnets. Second, while I have no
doubt that there are important insights scattered throughout, I still
think that we ought to situate these insights within the multiple
discourses of the late sixteenth, early seventeenth century. To do
otherwise risks coming up with an interpretation as wrong and as
anachronistic as to say that when Yeats writes, "I am tired of poets who
are gay," he is being homophobic.

Peter C. Herman
 

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