LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for TSE Archives


TSE Archives

TSE Archives


TSE@PO.MISSOURI.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

TSE Home

TSE Home

TSE  February 2010

TSE February 2010

Subject:

Re: Literalism and Its Discontents, was 'Gerontion'

From:

DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 08:26:41 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (449 lines)

Dear Nancy,

My suggestion was that emotional conflict as a result of the passage  
of time were actions in the poem. The speaker berates himself for an  
unsatisfactory life, so that he is in conflict with time that runs  
out, and with his own timidity. Ageing is not stasis. Emotion is not  
static or inert.

Ageing is the cause of his failure. If he had forever he might make  
more adventurous choices.

His turmoil is a smaller action within the larger arc of his  
lifetime's movement.

So that the "geron" is caught within the condition of old age,  
or"gerontion."

The stem and full formation are both nouns as I see it. A small one  
within a larger one if you will. (However a word like "devotion" makes  
a noun from a verb -- but that's not what I meant.)

When Joyce's word coinages and double meanings are recalled, it's  
clear that my suggestion is in accord with Modernist practices.   
"Finnegans Wake," another title, is lacking an apostrophe before the  
s, which makes the phrase both possessive -- the wake of Finnegan --  
and an imperative -- wake up you Finnegans (and O'Learys etc. -- the  
Irish people.)

So I don't see my suggestion as being out of keeping with literary  
innovations of the period in which the poem was written.

Cheers,

Diana


Sent from my iPod

On Feb 23, 2010, at 7:39 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Diana,
>
> This began because of treating "Gerontion" as a verbal.   
> "Proportion" is not a verbal either.  So in both cases, you are now  
> treating them as nouns.  But the difference in this case is that  
> "proportion" is an abstract noun and a concept, not a name or a  
> specific designator, as is "Gerontion."  And there is no evidence I  
> can see anywhere in Eliot's poem to suggest he intends a concept as  
> a speaker.  That is my point about context and syntax.  All kinds of  
> play are possible, but all have to work together; any single word is  
> not an isolated unit.  He calls himself  "an old man."  It think  
> that is precise, and I do not see any place in the poem where there  
> is reason to see an abstraction instead.  Where do you see it?
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
>
>
> >>> DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 02/23/10 3:50 PM >>>
> Dear Nancy,
>
> Why can't Gerontion be the name of the speaker and a noun like
> "proportion"? The latter meaning would suggest that the speaker is
> voicing in his way the experience of being superannuated or failed
> that is not unique to him. Since gerontology is built on the same stem
> it's not impossible that a poet could play with a suffix so that a
> double meaning would accrue to the word to broaden the meaning beyond
> the personal feelings of the speaker.
>
> Diana
>
> Sent from my iPod
>
> On Feb 23, 2010, at 2:56 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> > Putting aside all mutual rebuttal, there are two key points in
> > Carrol's message that are central to what I have been saying.
> > First, if Gerontion is not a person, it is difficult if not
> > impossible to make the text work at all. If the word is a verb or
> > verbal, it makes no sense to try to imagine it as something/one  
> that/
> > who thinks and feels futile and remembers a life. And this leads to
> > the second point: no word can be shifted in isolation. The minute
> > one word shifts, all the words before and after are affected. So to
> > address the title, which is a name in a poem that opens with an "I"
> > who speaks, is to make all the rest call for a totally changed way
> > of approaching any of the language. That is why I keep blethering
> > on about syntax.
> >
> > This in no way disagrees with the claim of poetic transformations of
> > words, about which Diana is clearly right. But they occur in a
> > whole text and they follow some known codes even when seemingly  
> not--
> > only the contrast to the usual code allows any recognition of a
> > change or altered meaning. It is only because we know the
> > conventionally coded meaning of "etcetera" that we can slot it into
> > the changed position and only because it has a form that can fit a
> > noun.
> > Cheers,
> > Nancy
> >
> > >>> DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 2/23/2010 2:23 PM >>>
> > Dear Carrol,
> >
> > Marcia asked you the question as a way of mocking
> >
> >
> >
> > Sent from my iPod
> >
> > On Feb 23, 2010, at 1:52 PM, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> > > That is a very profound and searching critqiue: the non-literal is
> > > different from the literal, but to ask what the literal is is
> > "silly."
> > > You were wandering on abut Derrida some time ago but apparently  
> you
> > > were
> > > just spoofing us. I is precisely the difficulties of the _literal_
> > > (which exists only in quoted texts) that was the point of  
> departure
> > > for
> > > that "radi al uncertainy" you bloviated on. Now the very first  
> time
> > > that
> > > someone seriously approaches a text in that "postmodern" fashion,
> > > recognizing the radical uncertainty of the text (as contrasted to
> > the
> > > metaphysics of presence in oridnary speech) you retreat the most
> > naive
> > > and silly of all the complaints abut "postmodernism" -- it's  
> SILLY.
> > >
> > > A text (written rather than spontaneously spoken) is _encoded_ and
> > has
> > > to be decoded by the reader. (See any of the studies in semiotics
> > > published in the lat 60 years and you will find that matter
> > > discussed at
> > > some length.) Literal cannot mean anything else that what is
> > _thee_ on
> > > the page, and what is on the page is a cdoe which is meaningless
> > until
> > > painfully decoded. That this process is not automatic is shown,  
> for
> > > example, by the phenomenon of dyslexia. Most dyslexics have a good
> > > comand of English; they can follow complex oral staatements and  
> they
> > > can
> > > formulate complex arguments in flexible and precise Enlish, but  
> they
> > > cannot decode those inscrutable marks on the page. You recently
> > > yourself
> > > sufferered from a tmporary attack of dyslexia when you consturd
> > _tion_
> > > as _ing_, and have been digging a deeper and deeper hole for  
> yurself
> > > as
> > > you stubbornly try to defend this error in decoding the literal.
> > >
> > > (Incidentally, the radical uncertainty that Derrida focuses on has
> > > nothing whatever to do with quantum mechanics, which is why the
> > phrase
> > > is in scare quotes above. That uncertanty was one of the  
> discoveries
> > > of
> > > modernism, not postmodernism. And of course the really serious
> > > uncertainty is the subect of the opening line of the oldest  
> complete
> > > document we possess, neither modern nor postmodern, the Iliad
> > which is
> > > all about what are sometimes now called "unintended consequences,"
> > > i.e.
> > > the toatl inability of humans then and now to know what _all_ the
> > > consequences of any act will be, however simple that act.)
> > >
> > > "Gerontion" on the page has no meaning whatever -- literally it is
> > > unintelligible, and in gaily disregarding that and pursuing the
> > > figurative meanings of a non-existen literal meaning you show
> > yourself
> > > utterly blind to all the tough issues of the hermeneutic circel.
> > >
> > > So let's rehearse. You cannot begin to speculate on the non- 
> literal
> > > meaning of a word until you have (at least provisonally) construed
> > the
> > > inconstruable, the word's _literal_ 'meaning,' that is, until you
> > have
> > > somehow decoded thos strange marks on the page. For example, I'm a
> > bit
> > > confused aboaut the lemon juice your refer to in the first line of
> > > your
> > > post. It makes little s ense to say that the literal was not lemon
> > > juice. Perhaps another example hypothetically contrasting the  
> quoted
> > > from the unquoted will help here. (You have to remember that  
> Derrida
> > > analyzed _some_ spoken language as "written," that is, as text.
> > >
> > > Suppose you were to hear someone in an auditroum or perhaps off to
> > one
> > > side in a park singing one of the old Civil-Rights/Union songs --
> > say
> > > the one with the puzzling lines (when quoted in a text) "Like a  
> tree
> > > that's standing by the river / We shall not be moved." It's  
> really a
> > > pretty dumb song WHEN QUOTED, AS TEXT -- quoted either on the page
> > > or by
> > > the group singing it in the park. It not only is pretty banal and
> > > unintesting but it is nearly uninntelligible. To make sense of  
> it we
> > > are
> > > thrown back in the hermeneutic circle of understanding the part
> > before
> > > we understand it so we can understand the whole so then we can
> > > understand the part which we understood before without  
> understanding
> > > it.
> > > But now let's (in our imagination) move to a location/time when  
> the
> > > words were not quoted (even though they were not new but merely
> > > recited
> > > an older song they were still not text, not quoted) but were  
> mouthed
> > > in
> > > the fac3 of the fire hoses and the police clubs and dogs by those
> > who
> > > were, albeit stubbornly, moving, being moved, but continuing to  
> sing
> > > "we
> > > shal not be moved," like a tree. Now the words are NEITHER litral
> > nor
> > > metaphorical. There is nothing to construe, no 'literal' and
> > > 'non-literal" "meanings" to link together someohow, but an  
> idividble
> > > unity of people, firehoses, police dogs, clubs, excited radio
> > > reporters,
> > > photogrpahers, water running down the gutters, bleeding
> > foreheads. . .
> > > No text. Nothing quoted.
> > >
> >  
> Andthereareincidentalllynospacesbetweentheordsforspacesexistonlyintextnotinspeech.
> > > I guess you may not have realized that spaces were a code and like
> > any
> > > code meaningless until the code is broken as it were.
> > >
> > > The genre of the word "Gerontion" is a title, and titles are empty
> > > until completed by the text of
> > > which
> > > ther are the title. (What is the 'literal' meaning of "his" in the
> > > title, "To His Coy Mistress"?) What is the literal meaning of
> > > "Paradise
> > > Regained" when the story ends with the hero merely returning
> > > unobserved
> > > to his mother's house. I inquired some weeks ago if anyone cudl  
> link
> > > the
> > > varus pasages in 4Q to the instruments in a qurtet. Is it a  
> violin,
> > > viola, or cello that sounds in theopening lines of Burnt Norton or
> > > is it
> > > some combination of two or all three of the instruments? No one
> > > responded: that is, none of us kows the literal meaning of the  
> title
> > > under which the four poems were pbulished. And I've slipped into
> > your
> > > vocabulary here, for obviously the printed marks (nine of them
> > > altogether including the spaces on both sides) don't refer to any
> > > instruments but to the quoted word "quartet." I believe Northrop
> > Frye
> > > called this level, the level in which we have departed from the
> > > literal
> > > and are focusing on the sign theliteral refers to, as the  
> historical
> > > level. So none of us is very sure abut eithr the literal or the
> > > historical meaning of this title, and probably before we start
> > talking
> > > about the symbolic meaning of the phrase we should be a bit more
> > > certain
> > > aboaut those 'lower' levels.
> > >
> > > I would suppose the historical meaning of "Gerontion" (looking
> > back on
> > > it from a prelinary 'reading' of the rest of the pome) has to be a
> > > person rather than some unkown speaker Geronting whatever that  
> might
> > > be.
> > > The text retains its radical undecidability but at least we have a
> > > provisonal basis for talking about it with each other. If we start
> > > with
> > > neither the literal nor the historical meaning and plunge into  
> some
> > > alleged symbolic meanign we are poor little sheep who have lost  
> our
> > > way.
> > > Nothing connects. And while it is true that we will never have  
> more
> > > than
> > > a provisional and uncertain understanding of the (historical and
> > > symbolic) meanings of the whole, we really can't talk abut the
> > > (historical) meaning of any one word, including the title)  
> except by
> > > referring back to that (provisioal and undecidable) symbolic  
> meaning
> > > of
> > > the whole. And unless we wish to launch into complete originality
> > > (which
> > > Eliot notes would be hpelessly unitelligible), we need to start  
> with
> > > somethning fairly simple (unlie the quite unimple literal meaning
> > and
> > > the onl slightly less complex than the historical meaning) --  
> which
> > > wuld
> > > seem to be an old frustrated man remembering his many failures to
> > act.
> > > That's pretty simple, and quite unsatisfactory as an end point of
> > our
> > > discussion, but it does enable discussion, which any attempt to  
> move
> > > from the literal to the symbolic of the title word in isoaltion
> > > frustrates.
> > >
> > > And of course this is what Nancy has been trying to hammer into
> > closed
> > > ears -- we need a place to start, and playing around with the
> > > unintelligible literal meaning of the title by itself frustrates
> > even
> > > beginning to talk abut the poem.
> > >
> > > And now you should answer Marcia's quetion: "The chair's leg. A
> > > metaphorical usage, don't you think?"
> > >
> > > Again, a failure to grant the complexity of the literal and
> > historical
> > > meanings can frustrate discuusion. If we focus on the historical
> > > meaning
> > > of "chair" by itself we cannot tell whether we are referring to an
> > > article of furniture or the Vice President of the United States
> > > while he
> > > ispresiding over the Senate. If that is the historical meaning  
> here,
> > > then, I guess, Marcia is wrong and "leg" is quite non-
> > metaphorical. So
> > > before we deicde the "literal" or "non-litereral" status of leg we
> > do
> > > need to decode "chair," which taken by itslef we could not do.
> > (Note,
> > > there is no problem in speech, with its metaphysics of presence:  
> we
> > > are
> > > all standing in a room togeher and oneof us points to the chair  
> and
> > > notes that the chiar'sleg is scratched. No problem with the Vice
> > > President here.) I'll stop here because I can't quite figure out
> > even
> > > the correct question to ask of "leg." But before say8ing it's all
> > > simple, I really think you shouldanswer Marcia's question.
> > >
> > > Carrolu
> > >
> > > P.S. I advixe against anyone trying to show familarity with
> > Derrida or
> > > decosntruction on the basis of my remarks, since I haven't really
> > done
> > > the homework to cosntru "metaphysics of presence," "radical
> > > undecidabilty," "qutation," and "text," which are all technical
> > > terms I
> > > haven't myself fully mastered at all.
> > >
> > >
> > > DIana Manister wrote:
> > >>
> > >
> > >> Carrol,
> > >>
> > >> Granted that "literal" was not le mot juste for what I was trying
> > to
> > >> say, but your explication is silly. Being literal does not mean
> > >> focussing on the letters in a word. A literal meaning is simply
> > >> different from a metaphorical or symbolic meaning.
> > >>
> > >> Diana
> > >>
> > >> Sent from my iPod
> > >>
> > >> On Feb 22, 2010, at 7:15 PM, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > >>
> > >>> Diana Manister wrote:
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Dear Nancy,
> > >>>>
> > >>>> I think it's counterproductive to be strictly literal about
> > >>>> meanings
> > >>>> in poetry.
> > >>>
> > >>> Probably not possible. And if one wants to try to be literal,  
> the
> > >>> place
> > >>> to start is with "literal," which if understood literally means
> > >>> focusingon the letters, their sounds, the progression of those
> > >>> sounds,
> > >>> etc etc. It would be the equivalent of geting so close to  
> Picaso's
> > >>> Gurnica that all the lines and shapes disappeared and all one  
> was
> > >>> examing were the brush strokes. As soon as you go by that  
> 'level,'
> > >>> youcan no longer be literal, for words literally focused on are
> > >>> literally unitelligible. Look at "strokes" above. Does it  
> refer to
> > >>> strokes of an oar, a medical condition, parts of love-making,
> > parts
> > >>> of a
> > >>> lashing abut the fleet in the Royal Navy of the early 19th-c,
> > >>> instances
> > >>> (as in "strokes of luck"), a misprint for "sokes" as in "stoes  
> the
> > >>> fireplace") or for "spokes" (as in a wheel), and so forth.  
> (These
> > >>> are
> > >>> the kinds of difficulties, incidentally, that those who cry  
> for a
> > >>> "literal" interpretation of the Constituion purposely ignore,
> > for to
> > >>> take them into consideration is to show their hypocrisy.) To
> > escape
> > >>> the
> > >>> trap of literalism means putting the letters, and thus the word,
> > in
> > >>> some
> > >>> context, that is to identify the genre of the sentence, or  
> larger
> > >>> unit,
> > >>> in which the word appears. (This is one version of what is  
> called
> > >>> the
> > >>> hermeneutic circle: one must understand the whole to understand
> > the
> > >>> parts but the whole can only be understood by understandin the
> > >>> words. It
> > >>> can be either a vicious or benevolent circle. And at that  
> point it
> > >>> really becomes complicated.)
> > >>>
> > >>> Carrol
> > >>>
> > >

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
March 1996
February 1996
January 1996
December 1995
November 1995

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



PO.MISSOURI.EDU

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager