Predicting Joyce’s “Calypso”

Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.

So begins the fourth chapter of Ulysses. “Calypso” is one of the more straightforward episodes of the novel, but here we’ll look at the way the opening line maintains its own ambiguity throughout the chapter’s opening pages. The suspended ambiguity is initiated in the grammatical indeterminacy of “ate,” which functions either as preterit (simple past) or as unmarked imperfect, suggesting, respectively, either that Bloom has just eaten a meal consisting of animal organs, or that Bloom regularly eats animal organs (completed action vs. general habit or practice). Continue reading “Predicting Joyce’s “Calypso””

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”

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”