Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting Sold By Academic Criticism

I am a sucker for long-winded (but precise!) scholarship.

So, I've decided to write down a recent example I happened to have thoroughly enjoyed from Tony Sharpe's biography of poet Wallace Stevens:
This poem ["The Comedian as the Letter C"] was indeed the accomplishment of an extremist in the exercise, an act almost of aesthetic terrorism in a society whose post-puritan recrudescence had recently (1919) introduced Prohibition. It was also, as I have tried to suggest, a repudiation of several of the precious tenants of literary Modernism, in its unorthodoxy with regard to location and locution — no wonder Stevens and Hemingway came to blows! Although the heightened consciousness of the materiality of his linguistic medium might link Steven's poem to radical experimenters such as [Gertrude] Stein, the willed anachronism of its lexicon, and the old-fashionedness of its blank verse and the basic narrative shape, suggest a more traditionalist poetics. It is almost as if the poem had been expressly designed to appeal to nobody at all[...]
Post-puritan recrudescence! The willed anachronism of its lexicon! Complex ideas wrought more complex through the wit of formal linguistic expression! God, I miss the ivory tower

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