There is always the middle way.
In fact a word cannot be totally unfixed or it would be useless nonsense.
I venture to say that every word that is viable has both a fixed root
allied with variable element. The flip is also true. The root can change
and the variables can become fixed.
To cleave or not to cleave that is the question.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 10:19 AM
Subject: Re: Word Choice Re: a Jeremiah sighting?
> Dear Diana,
> You're right: they do--notably the "strict constructionists" on the
> Supreme Court. But by the theory you have been discussing, they are
> beside the point; it is language, not the author alone, that cannot be
> fixed. And as you pointed out, Eliot says that in many ways. In that
> sense, it is not in his gaps that Eliot is a brilliant writer but in the
> effects he does produce by what he writes, however he came to the words.
> He need not have individually decided on every word at all; whole lines
> and phrases could have come to him without deliberation. He would
> choose whether to keep them or not, no doubt, but even he might not be
> conscious of every possible nuance or evocation. In fact, no one could,
> give the nature of language as slipping.
> One really cannot have it both ways--language as fixed and language as
> unfixed. You've been arguing the former.
> Nancy, members of this listsrv do not always look kindly on gaps between
> intended and received meaning(s), and anyone who reads the Letters to
> the Editor in the Sunday Book Review will come across arguments about
> reviewers' word choices. Writers are generally held responsible for
> every word to which they attach their names, semantic slippage
> notwithstanding. One aspect of Eliot's genius it seems to me is his
> sensitivity to hs words' nuances, connotations and history. To the
> extent that a writer is not, his wordsmith abilities are less than
> Eliot's. Diana
> From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
> Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Word Choice Re: a Jeremiah sighting?
> Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2007 13:02:15 -0400
> One can distinguish between analyzing what is there--and its effect--and
> assuming that everything was put there intentionally and with a
> specific, recoverable purpose. These are distinct acts of reading and
> writing. Given your own point about the gap between signifier and
> signified, it would not even be possible to simply encode a particular
> exact meaning or to recover it: the language is always "slipping" to
> use Eliot's word.
> So on that assumption, we cannot know what words are random and what
> words are carefully considered, and even if we could, we still cannot
> know exactly what the poet intended. New Critics made a great fuss
> against the "intentional fallacy" and assumed we have, in fact, only the
> text to examine, a "verbal icon." Close reading was a way of examining
> that verbal construct for its form and impact, not for whatever
> conscious intent the author may of may not have had.
> If words are random--perhaps simply heard as a rhythm first and used (as
> Eliot claimed) or evoked by illness or "rhythmical grumbling (as Eliot
> also claimed), they are still there. It is reading that must encounter
> and deal with them in any case.
> >>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 07/10/07 1:28 PM >>>
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