Sunday, September 26, 2004

Beginning the heavy lifting I have in store for the next month or two--the essay for my Milton incomplete. My meander begins with Stanley Fish's How Milton Works, so you might be hearing about that intermittently. Unless I get tired enough to set it aside, which might happen, we'll see, though I'm optimistic.

Striking book. Strange typographical touch, that chapter subheads are flowery italics. A lot of the thinking is amazingly strong, though not all. I'm taken with his overall argument, an evolution of (and generalization from) his earlier work, which focused on the actual mechanics of Milton's syntax, enjambment, and imagery as spread across time. From what I remember, brilliant work, arguing that Milton' s poetic (I most remember the argument regarding enjambment) in Paradise Lost is to offer you multiple choices of meaning and then surprise you with what the actual is, so that you participate in the 'fallenness' his poem concerns. Again, it's been years, and foggy ones, so I may not have nailed it in that one sentence, but that's how I remember it.

Right now I'm thinking of a paper that deals with the concept that 'free will' doesn't take place in the arena we usually think if it in, of decisions made in time, contingent--but in an instantenaiety prior to that unfolding, purely regarding the character's relationship to god; that the decisions of "fallen time" are where we get lost pretending they are real because of what the character (Satan, say, or Eve) have cut ourselves off from in that holistic instantenaiety. That such "fallen time" decisions play out as maps of the prior decision, and not as creative actualities in themselves. And following, that the penalty for violating the natural, or moral, law, is not subsequent, as a sequence, but is the violation itself. Fish mostly touches on this suggestively, but I don't see how his argument goes far enough to reconcile God's boringness, his staticicity, with what is supposed to be his goodness, otherwise. Well, if I read his statements in the light of Eastern philosophy, specifically Taoism, I do, but I can't help but think that is me 'Projectively' reading. Though some passages lend themselves to borrowing by what I know and, I imagine, any whole spiritual conception of the moral universe. I'd quote some now, but the book is upstairs and I'm not, so I do apologize for the delay if you are interested; I will do so later today.

& a strange part of growing older and returning to what you have not finished (which, in a holistic sense, is everything), is that what was once taught you dynamically can return feeling like an original idea. That may be the case with my idea above, it smells a little like that to me. I'll go look up my old Milton notes and report back.

I'm partial to Fish's exegesis of "Lycidas." However, I do remember having the sensation, when reading Fish, that many of his arguments tailed off in bizarre, and sometimes non-sensical, directions (particularly in Professional Correctness). I may have to re-read his work now; you've got me interested in returning to readings past. Best, Ryan

I've noticed that certain particularly brilliant & idiosyncratic critics (such as Fish, or Bloom, to choose the most notorious) conclude beyond the finishing line, so to speak--they can't tell necessarily where creative interpretation ends and creativity begins.
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