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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Literature, Music, Language
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0028  Friday, 8 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Jan 1999 09:16:45 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Jan 1999 09:21:34 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0025 Re: Literature, Music, Language

[3]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Jan 1999 15:06:49 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language

[4]     From:   C. David Frankel <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Jan 1999 20:19:44 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Jan 1999 09:16:45 EST
Subject: 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language

> Like
>  the rest of his generation, Hemmingway was disgusted with everything
>  that had gone before, and showed it by limiting himself to laconic
>  he-man sentences ("Me Hemmingway, you Reader"), and the style swung to
>  the opposite pole, where it has pretty much remained ever since. Or at
>  least the fad has remained there. Good writers will always use the
>  language as it is meant to be used.
>
>  Stephanie Hughes

Because I come from that "other world" outside the academy, I see this
problem differently.  For Hemingway, it was a matter of stylistic
choice: he could have written long sentences, like this one, but he
elected not to.  I'm afraid much of the dummying down of writing
styles-and even citation methods-today has to do with the number of
people who simply cannot read (or properly use) punctuation, or read or
understand even the simplest phrases in Latin (loc. cit., et seq.,
ibid.), and don't want to be bothered to learn how to do so.  It has
gotten to the point that I use the following example with my engineering
colleagues (those wonderful techies who write jargon-laden "specs") to
demonstrate that in fact, Virginia, commas do count.

Please punctuate this sentence:

Woman without her man is nothing


Oh, really? is that how you think, my socially conscious, scrupulously
politically correct  techie friend?  Try this:

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

As my sixth-grade teacher never tired of exhorting, punctuation counts!

Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Jan 1999 09:21:34 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 10.0025 Re: Literature, Music, Language
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0025 Re: Literature, Music, Language

Re Betty Oakes:

>I'm embarrassed to say I can't credit the poet who proposed
>that a poem should have meaning but not should mean anything.

The poem is "Ars Poetica" by Archibald MacLeish:

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit.

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown--

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees.

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind--

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea--

A poem should  not mean
But be.

(Copied from the 1985 Medallion Edition of _Adventures in
American Literature_, HBJ)

I took the liberty of typing it all out so that others wouldn't have to
hit the Bartleby site for the text.

For me, this poem often is a good place to start TEACHING poetry...

And I have a dear friend who is a computer consultant (writes code AND
does networking and support) and who plays tuba and piano.  He says that
when he is troubled,  he turns to the
keyboard of his Clavinola... because only through the music can he at
once both escape himself and confront that part of himself which he
needs to escape... confront it and grok it and deal with it.  I envy him
this release; I know of no other way of finding such release.  The
closest I can come is READING poetry, especially Shakespeare, more
especially the sonnets.

Yours for the meaning in the music AND the words,
Marilyn Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Jan 1999 15:06:49 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language


> I'm suggesting that, compared with
> other languages, English has always been long on change (elasticity and
> accommodation) and short on rules. Am I wrong?

Yes.

For some reason, English speakers like to propagate the myth that their
language has no, or less, grammar than all those other stuffy
languages.  English is a relatively uninflected language, and for a lot
of people inflections=grammar.  It is possible to encode grammatical
information in other ways than inflections however (eg.  word order)  -
and these are just as rule governed.

As far as I know, no linguists think it is meaningful to try to compare
the 'amount' of grammar in languages: they generally assume that all
grammars are equal in size and complexity.

The point about change is more complex: languages certainly do show
different rates of change.  Current Icelandic is closer to Old Icelandic
than current English is to Old English (in terms of degree of
intelligibility to current speakers) - but this is because Icelandic has
shown a very low rate of change, rather than English being some super,
elastic, go-ahead language.

The rate at which a language changes seems to have to do not with any
internal qualities of the language, but external social factors:
urbanisation seems to speed it up, and contact between
languages/dialects, and certain patterns of social organisation of
speakers.

Jonathan Hope
Middesex University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Jan 1999 20:19:44 -0500
Subject: 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.0025  Re: Literature, Music, Language

> I'm embarrassed to say I can't credit the poet who proposed
> that a poem
> should have meaning but not should mean anything.

Archibald MacLeish, "Ars Poetica,":

A poem should not mean,
But be.

(The last lines of the poem.)

C. David Frankel
 

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