Sontag v. Top-down Frames

The title of Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” is misleading, and regularly confuses readers who believe her “erotics of art” precludes interpretive dot-connecting and inference. This is not the case: the piece is more accurately titled “Against Allegorization,” or “Against Ideological Readings” — those hermeneutic approaches that set out to find “encoded” and symbolic meanings in a work of literature according to the reader’s personal schema. Continue reading “Sontag v. Top-down Frames”

Schematic Disruption

Cognitive poetics is one of the most exciting literary-theoretic subfields I’ve stumbled upon. So far as I can tell, Peter Stockwell, whose paper on resonance I’ve cited previously, is one of cognitive poetics’ primary authorities, and has written an introduction to the discipline (Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction, 2002).

Stockwell summarizes “schema theory,” a composite of different theorists’ attempts to better grasp how readers bring interpretive contexts and frameworks to texts during a literary encounter. We can understand “schemas” loosely in the way Piaget, Kant, and Schmidhuber have all used it:¹ a mental framework and interpretive system into which new ideas are tested and assimilated. Synonyms for schema include frameworkworldviewway of seeinginterpretive filter, and mental modelContinue reading “Schematic Disruption”

Corpus as Concept: Poetic Sensibilities in Literary-Theoretic Discourse

There are two parts to an argument I want to make but lack the qualifications: 1) showing poetry, and poets in large, express, across their corpus, a worldview or way of seeing; 2) showing that literary-theoretic discourse actively leverages poets as concept handles in meta-level discourse (discourse about discourse; that is, to talk about how we talk about the world, to interrogate worldviews and discourses. Reading digs a channel, a channel dug with others’ words, through which communication can pass. Poets become stand-ins for sensibilities, the mystical, religious Blake held in opposition to the more level, moderate Wordworth (as in Kirsch’s Why Trilling Matters). Or the romanticism of Wordsworth held in opposition to the chthonic, darker Coleridge (as in Paglia’s Sexual Personae). Continue reading “Corpus as Concept: Poetic Sensibilities in Literary-Theoretic Discourse”

Oscillation / Fashion

1. Oscillation


You can never really tell when James Murphy’s being sincere, whether he’s making fun of others or making fun of himself. “Pow Pow”’s his statement of philosophy — “from this position / I can totally see how the decision was reached” — which is a sort of pragmatist-PoMo enlightenment: acknowledge perspective’s providence on truth and then turn it into a middle-aged reasonableness (over youthful anger, Roman conceit). On the surface Murphy’s all about fashion (“I’m losing my edge to Internet seekers who can tell me every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978… the art-school Brooklynites [with] borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties”). More substantially he’s obsessed with Hegelian dialectic — thesis, antithesis, synthetic reconciliation (“And they’re actually really, really nice”; “Maybe I’m wrong / And maybe you’re right” ; the love & hate vis-a-vis New York). Continue reading “Oscillation / Fashion”

Poets are Intelligence Assets

As I understand it, the idea in Benjamin Hoffman’s “Poets are intelligence assets” is that there’s all this ambient information about specific cultural moments which is packed into a text unintentionally. My impression is past theorists have called this, loosely, “ideology,” though the word carries deep-politic connotations. “Worldview” may be a better term, but I’m not as familiar with the theory as I should be. Continue reading “Poets are Intelligence Assets”