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TSE  January 2013

TSE January 2013

Subject:

Re: [Milton-L] Kim Maxwell on Poetry & Truth

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 17 Jan 2013 23:21:35 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (155 lines)

When the Iliad appeared, its final book may have expressed a truth for the
first time: that humanity exists! And there is _some_ evidence that it was
'new' rather an expression of an assumption already arrived at. There is
some evidence that the motive for writing it down in Athens was as support
for the Democratic Revolution. Key to the new society was the _deme_ as
basic political unit, and the deme was geographically defined, hence cutting
across blood lines, which up to that time in Athens and everywhere else had
been the primary political unit. The Athenians saw the final book as
dramatizing this premise that loyalty could cut across family lines. In any
case, I know of nothing more sublime in western literature than that final
book of the Iliad. Nothing in either Shakespeare or Dante quite matches that
point at which Achilles sees an identity between Priam and his own Father,
and thus between himself and Hektor.

Of course for anyone who does not accept homo sapiens as a real category the
book would not have this force. It would be meaningless, for example, for
those who join in the anti-migrant hysteria. (No human is illegal.)

Carrol

> -----Original Message-----
> From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
> Behalf Of Carrol Cox
> Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:47 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: FW: [Milton-L] Kim Maxwell on Poetry & Truth
> 
> From the Milton List. I find Kim Maxwell' fully  convincing. Also still
> worth reading is the essay by James Kinkaid mentioned below.
> 
> Carrol
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [log in to unmask]
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Carrol Cox
> Sent: Friday, April 06, 2012 12:58 PM
> To: 'John Milton Discussion List'
> Subject: [Milton-L] Kim Maxwell on Poetry & Truth
> 
> Below is a post Kim Maxwell submitted to the list several years ago. It
> raises a number of interesting questions relevant to the present cluster
of
> threads -- especially those posts which tend to find in Milton a view of
> human life not inconsistent with the critic's view.  In addition to Kim's
> post, it seems to me the sharply different interpretations offered by
> equally learned and perceptive critics give some support to an article
James
> Kincaid published in Critical Inquiry several decades ago: "Coherent
> Readers, Incoherent Texts."
> 
> There was no discussion of Kim's post at the time, which was a pity.
> 
> Carrol
> 
> ======
> 
> Re: [Milton-L] Reply to Prof.  Fleming on totalization Sun, 30 Nov 2008
> 09:32:51 -0800 (PST)
> --------
> 
> Prof. Fleming
> 
> As our posts have gotten long and irritating to others, I will take up any
> matters from my last two, which you have generally answered, with you off
> line, at a later time, after I have read your book (which I started last
> spring) However, I feel the question of mimesis is important, and I offer
> the following response.
> 
> Yes. literature must be about something. But (1) I presume you are not
going
> to ask "something" to be ontological, that literature provides and
> internally justifies truthful statements about the real world itself. Does
> Hell really have burning lakes, or Paradise a real tree of life? I think
(2)
> that we decide on the "something" as a first act o f interpretation, not
as
> an outcome, particularly about a work with as vast a compass as Paradise
> Lost. We may be interested in Eve and patriarchy (the "something"), then
> read relevant passages of the poem and other opinions to decide for
> ourselves what we think the poem has to say about Eve and patriarchy. As
> there are more than fifty articles and one book on Eve (not all about
> patriarchy), with diverse and incompatible conclusions drawn from the
> poem,
> it would be hard to say that the poem itself produces a mimesis of Eve and
> patriarchy. Instead, (3) as you observe through Gadamer, an interpretation
> comprises (at least) the text, our interests in the text (not drawn from
the
> text itself), and within those interest various beliefs that we bring to
the
> poem. Those interests must influence our interpretation, provide content
to
> the interpretation, and (more often than we would like to admit) direct
and
> may provide all of the material of an interpretation. How do we read "He
for
> God only, she for God in him"? Well, it depends. If we decide it is not
> ironic, then it may become either a claim for the actual relationship
> between men, women, and God (with the usual biblical citations), or a
> statement of female oppression (with various real-world treatments of
> women
> quivering in the background). If we decide it is ironic, (it is seen
through
> Satan's eyes, after all, and the narrator is not reliable), then we begin
a
> journey through the poem that has Eve resisting patriarchy, or ironically
> defending patriarchy as a necessary component of civil order. None of
these
> can be justified by the poem alone. I claim that (4) mimesis works in one
> direction, from the reader to the poem , as a means of understanding and
> organizing the interpretative process, but that mimesis does not work in
the
> other direction, that we learn from the poem on its own terms something
> about the world. I believe a careful reading of Aristotle's poetics will
> reach the same idea, that fictions have necessary properties that require
> mimesis to understand but preclude mimesis as a poetic outcome.
> 
> Perhaps a classic formulation of the problem I mean can be found in
> Kerrigan's /The Sacred Complex /He says, "The survival of literature as
> anything more than an artifact depends on our ability to extend its
original
> reference into a genuinely revelatory description . . . of the world we
> inhabit now." (p2) He then proceeds to self-consciously read the p oem
> through the lens of Freudian psychoanalysis. This is not revelation, it is
> (very ingenious and interesting) imposition of an external theory of the
> world. If anyone believes that the poem cannot be made to confute rather
> than defend a Freudian view, they have not been reading criticism
latterly.
> 
> I realize this makes the justification of literature itself difficult. If
it
> does not teach us about the world, or make a better world (by teaching
> virtue, or otherness, or any of the other things so many even recent
> scholars have advanced in favor of beauty and instruction, still the most
> common justification), or critique or defend our cultural, moral,
political
> order, or order our thoughts, or create a consciousness (all of which may
be
> considered mimetic), what does it d o? I do not know the answer to this
> question. It may have no answer (rather like saying what poetry is). But
it
> seems to that literature on its own revealing truths of the world cannot
be
> one of them.
> 
> 
> 
> Kim Maxwell
> 
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> [log in to unmask]
> Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
> 
> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/

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