I wonder if this is the kind of discussion Marcia is looking for..
I've always thought, at least in an ideal academy,
that the proper response to a worrk of art is another work of art.
Certainly the essay mill that mimics instructors' thoughts &c., is an abuse
Eliot once told Groucho Marx that he (Eliot) was sorry to hear that his
had become required reading.
On the otherhand, to take the fork in the road:
January 25, 1963
Dear Mr. Eliot:
I read in the current Time Magazine that you are ill. I just want you to
know that I am
rooting for your quick recovery. First because of your contributions to
then, the fact that under the most trying conditions you never a stopped
Hurry up and get well.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ken Armstrong" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, May 02, 2010 3:28 PM
Subject: Re: A modest proposal
Thanks for taking a look at the address. Really, in the spirit of the
address, what you want is not some one more literary than you but
someone less given to being literary than to being; the idea is that to
be literary outside of an ultimate concern to be is to be irrelevant or
even harmful to literature--and, really, everything else -- i.e. the
critic that James' fictional writer rails against in "Figure in the
Carpet." The impulse to find someone more literary than you is one of
the impulses Thompson tries to analyse. We all are subject to them, but
his point is that we should not give our selves up to them.
"I have treated three strategies for evading the issue of literary
meaning negatively because, in a final analysis, they are negative. They
negate a reader's fundamental concern in literature. They might be
treated positively. We might say that a reader who adopts one of them,
whether the writer's view on interpretation, or the scholar's view, or
the booklover's view, is doing so in order to reach a positive
standpoint from which the work becomes accessible. But his
identification in each case is with another man's standpoint, one
external to his concern."
"They negate a reader's fundamental concern in literature" -- this is
the nub. The word "criticism" and all it implies all but guarantees that
a reader will misfocus his efforts to grasp the meaning of literature
because it never accepts the central purpose of literature; what
Thompson styles in one place in part as "the alchemy of art that
transforms the writer's background into the rich and strange."
I'm actually not sure what your complaint about the use of Baudelaire
is. The quote seems to support Thompson's use of it.
The thing is pretty thoughtfully and logically put together. I think
that some of the concepts may be difficult to "get your head around,"
but once around I don't think you'll find a misstep. Ultimately it is
what it promotes.
Rickard A. Parker wrote:
> Ken, Thanks for the Thompson essay. There was something there that I
> took issue with but with a more careful reading I saw that he was
> speaking of ***litery interpretation***, not ***literary criticism***.
> I'll withhold my comments for now hoping that you or you speaking for
> Thompson or someone else more literary than I can tell me the
It was spelled out in the essay. Literary criticism never joins with the
direct challenge that literature calls for. It substitutes aestheticism,
> I did catch Thompson saying:
> The third impulse that I have yielded to in order to retreat from
> the embarrassment of literary interpretation is that of the
> book-lover, the literary aesthete, that monster called the "hypocrite
> lecteur" by Charles Baudelaire. This is the man in Baudelaire's poem
> who reads contentedly of a hanging while smoking his hookah.
> This doesn't seem to be what Baudelaire wrote but maybe it isn't really
> important because it is Baudelaireish and makes a point anyway.
> CR had sent us to "Au Lecteur" the other day.
> C'est l'Ennui! L'oeil chargé d'un pleur involontaire,
> II rêve d'échafauds en fumant son houka.
> Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre délicat,
> — Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!
> *** Charles Baudelaire
> He is Ennui! — His eye filled with an unwished-for tear,
> He dreams of scaffolds while puffing at his hookah.
> You know him, reader, this exquisite monster,
> — Hypocrite reader, — my likeness, — my brother!
> *** Eli Siegel translation
> Rick Parker
>> Some of the more recent threads and exchanges between Nancy and me a few
>> weeks ago got me to thinking about putting up somewhere an address that
>> my professor, Eric Thompson, gave some 45 years ago (don't have the
>> exact date) that bears in multiple ways on the obstacles everyone faces
>> to understanding Eliot or any literary creation. I realize that the
>> regular contributors to this list have themselves pretty high definition
>> ideas about how to read, and there is of course the chance that the
>> piece will be read, if at all, more with an eye to "deconstruction" than
>> to the suspension of belief and disbelief necessary to hear a whole
>> thought spelled out in multiple phases. Playing the optimist that my
>> wife thinks I am, the latter is what I urge.
>> My thought is to leave it up a few days for the benefit and possible
>> discussion of the list. But discussed or no, I trust you'll find it well
>> considered and provocative. It is at http://www.clericalcut.com .
>> Ken A