Wednesday, March 31, 2010
reading time: between simulacrum
and literary legacy
The simulacral condition of hyperNetted textuality has become vertiginous, though still a kind of lowland (and very “noisy,” in the info sense). “Literary” textuality is very different, involving complex appreciation, giving time to reading, solitude.
The sense of appropriative bricolage I’ve rendered is not like the Internetted pointillism of cultural attention-deficit disorder which Kakutani circumspects (first link above: “Texts Without Context”).
But I’ve not yet reached that deep echo of allusion that Kirsch reviews (second link: “Poets Haunted by Poets”).
I’m at some midpoint, aspiring for a netweave that would be very allusive (though not as focus, unlike literary namedropping, typical of academics)—not classically literary, like a Lowell echoing Eliot echoing Dante echoing whatever (mentioned by Kirsch’s review). Rather, I’m seeking a very good sense of our contemporaneity, expressing something important, I hope, about the first decade or so of our century discursively, as a kind of conceptual inquiry. Poetic prospects would be a condition of postmetaphysicalism (conceptuality echoing our evolving) as much as it would be resourcefulness (centripetal appreciation).
I’ve largely done it, I think—found the good sense I’ve sought—but I haven’t settled on the set of exemplars (readings) for showing that—the sense of so-called appropriative bricolage—which might well express a sense of Appropriation that’s nothing like the trivialization of appropriative art that Kakutani frames.
Kirsch’s “Poets...” seems to begin where Kakitani’s “Texts...” ends: hyperNetted life, where all meaning flows to lowland. “Poets...” typifies a highland, the loss of which “Texts...” laments, facing so much leveling of the landscape—literary salience and depth eroded by vast shallowness.
In simulacral culture, everything becomes derivative, disposable. It’s not basically an issue of cultural class difference, a self-serving elitism against lowbrow culture. But maybe the leveling should be portrayed like that. The kind of valuing, the kind of humanity matters (or fails to). The “...‘captious ill-will or sheer ‘negligence’ of the average reader-auditor” in F.H. Bradley’s early 20th century made then as hyperNet City does now “the world of art [into] the region of the worthless-in-itself,” according to mid-century Eliot (curmudgeon of elitism). “Text...” laments a vast devaluation of appreciative and creative individuation.
Appreciative individuation, relative to “Text...,” involves highly valuing “the solitary act of reading,” “‘reading in the traditional open-ended sense,’” “total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas,” “literary” concerns over ephemeral sociality, “the unity of the book,” “beautifully rendered works of art,” and “personal enlightenment.”
Creative individuation involves highly valuing “the primacy of the individual” over hypersociality, “the autonomy of the artist,” “‘authorship,’” “judicious”ness, the “ability to think deeply and creatively,” “assiduous analysis,” “clever”ness and “inventive”ness, “genuine expertise,” “virtuosity and experimentation,” “intriguing [endeavors] that raise important and unsettling questions about art and appropriation,” and “originality and imagination.”
High attunement, even an intimacy, between artist and appreciative reader continues an intimacy between artist and influence, be it a passion of engagement (love-hate), a happy “comradeship” (typified by Lowell’s synergistic misprisions), narcissism of influence (Eliot’s “thefts”), or anxiety of influence (the protegé’s will to power or fear of “becoming [the] epigone,” as Kirsch puts it)—an anxiety expressed through misprision (highlighted by Harold Bloom, Anxiety of Influence, as integral to literary originality). In any case, the highland writer is a living self-questioning of literary authority—be s/he transported or haunted. Sophistication of the word, enowning of the light is integral to the work, idealizing high craft in the wake of possession, which becomes, for a reader in love, echoes of influence or resonances of a horizon.
Ironically, literarity may grow to resemble a kind of simulacrum, Kirsch finds (but doesn’t make the overt connection), as the trace of an idea’s legacy echoes through chains of time, influence to reader to writer across generations, potentially a vertigo to the reader (like Ricks, to Kirsch) who seems to read too much.
My problem is that I too often can’t shake anxiety about so obviously (seemingly) having read too little. I easily feel a high pretense I haven’t earned—which is good for humility and lifelong learning, but can also become a chronic pain.
-- gary e. davis --- 10:40 AM