[lit-ideas] Current travels of Gulliver

  • From: Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2017 13:45:25 -0700

I believe Helen Vendler is superior to anyone I've read recently in regard to reading and analyzing poetry.  For years I read everything Harold Bloom wrote but I did wish, I thought to myself each time, that he'd analyze a few poems in detail to exemplify why he thought what he did about them.  Because Helen Vendler does analyze poems in detail I'm inclined to doubt her when she adamantly claims that she is not a poet -- that she tried it early on and decided she wasn't any good at it.

David Myers once wrote that he was going to take up a volume of Ted Hughes as his next project.  I argued against the idea and analyzed several of Hughes poems line by line.  Myers never responded to my comments but neither did he take up Hughes book as a project.   There could have been other reasons of course.

But I wonder about this sort of thing in regard to the philosophical side of Lit Ideas.  I have not been able to follow everything recently because all the notes coming from Speranza are in the tiniest font-size possible and I can't read them unless I transfer them to a word processor, Word or WordPerfect.  Also, anyone who responds to Speranza also appears in the tiny font. But before all the philosophers became Lilliputians, it was seeming to me that their emphasis was about a philosopher, much as a historian might write about a historical figure rather than "doing philosophy."  In reading the two versions of Lowell's "Beyond the Alps," I went through them line by line thinking whether a different phraseology might work, looking at end rhyme for sacrifices that might have been made to achieve it, beauty in the lines, and how the poem hangs together logically.   And finally, how I would have done it, and which version would have satisfied me.   The poem is about a train ride from Rome to Paris in 1950.  Seven stanzas seemed about right for this long ride, also the ride (writing) was very intense.  After reading the earlier 7-stanza version I went back to the /Life Studies /3-stanza version.  I could no longer believe that you could get to Paris from Rome in three stanzas.

I'm no doubt doing an injustice to Grice and Popper, but when I was interested in Wittgenstein and Gadamer I was attracted to their disavowal of System.  You couldn't go to either one of them and see a system.  Despite Gadamer's (or Gadamer's translator, I don't know) he had a "method" of doing philosophy.  He "did" philosophy rather than advancing a system.  I went to Gadamer and Wittgenstein in the course of doing theological hermeneutics, seeing the debt Gadamer and Wittgenstein and ignoring the debt to others, I could work with that in my own theological studies.

You might say that I read Wittgenstein and Gadamer and thinking "ah ha! that is useful!" and then returned to theology a little wiser (hopefully) than before.

Here on Lit Ideas at present, imagining what is being written by picking out a tiny word here and there, I see the approach a historian might take: this is what historical person X did and said and this is what really happened in event Y.

No doubt I am mistaken and Speranza will next explain that he is "doing Grice's philosophical method" in his delineations.

Many apologies as this note is more frustration at no longer being able to read all the notes than serious criticism -- certainly not serious criticism for I would need to see what I was criticizing to do that. :-)


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