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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
>