S08-551-04-24-13 • Today: presentation on Paterson III (Emily Thompson) Have the gong / gooseneck hook ready at ~2:30? • Follow-up from last session on four issues, all pertaining to Aesthetic Ideas: • 1. Structure • 2. ‘The Ground’ • 3. Modes of Reasoning: demonstration and assent • 4. Practice precedes Theory
Poetic Reasoning • The perpetual problem in reading poetry is the habitual inclination to subordinate it to a conceptual schema. Virtually all the major orientations in Western literary theory reinforce this error: it is mimetic, it is inspiration, it is the expression of genius or idiosyncratic personal formations, it is instruction (delightful or not), yada, yada. • The fundamental problem is that it displaces poetry (making) into an antecedent or governing ground that is not conventionally accessible through the language nor from the reader’s private experience. • Williams: “Gee Doc, I guess it’s ok, but what the hell does it mean?” • I. A. Richards’ Practical Criticism—an experiment that can be replicated in any classroom, on any day that you want. • Williams: Paterson, 11: cf. In the American Grain: the “character denoting shape”
Structure • One fundamental problem is that all mimetic models (expansive: anything that presupposes the explanation of a made thing is anterior to its making) systematically evade the experientially obvious circumstance that meaning is not a property of anything: it is an event. • So too, it presumes that cognition is inherently reductive: We form a concept by the selection of ‘necessary’ and ‘sufficient’ properties or qualities or attributes so as to allow us to subordinate the individual thing to the schematic concept of it. • Thus what escapes us is the fact that creation does not cease with the particular product of it. • A structure is not identical with a shape or schema
The ‘ground’ The philosophical use of this trope typically arises from a schematic architecture, transmitted without break from Plato’s attempts to depict Eidos (long story here, but it cannot be found without reading the late dialogues) by diaresis or division. And the two metadivisions that guide the process are first, distinction between things created by the divine and things created by mena metaphysical sink hole. The second is the distinction between matter and mind, in all its iterations (body / soul, visible / intelligibile, etc.). In both instances, it is schematically mapped on time: what is the arche, the first, the original. After KANT: the ground as the a priori, logical not temporal: that without which. And in Kant’s rigorous following of the problem, the notion that there is one privileged ground is an illusion. One cannot do without sense / sensibility, nor without reason / rationality. One pivotal consequence is that reductive notions of either FORM or STRUCTURE inevitably result in paradoxes Williams: LITERALIZE THE GROUND as exactly that upon which you are standing, and return exactly to the senses. The habit of treating structure as schema—and the discomfort of finding it impossible to achieve—is where Williams (and Whitman, and I would argue, Kant and Coleridge) starts. The issue for reason is not constructing the schema, but following. Peirce: you start, literally, where you actually are—and Williams likewise: with a consciousness of your immediate contact with the world.
Modes of reasoning A Poetic logic (I do not mean what Vico projected) is a logic that follows the actual process of making. Thus claiming that poetic logic is the ground is, on the lines sketched here, easy to illustrate. Logic is coordinate with reasoning, not with a set of rules for ending the process of reasoning. Demonstrative: i.e., logic that demonstrates a conclusion compels assent at the cost of your own acceptance of the premises from which the conclusion follows. But this too appears to us primary or compelling only by virtue of an incomplete analysis of the underlying verb: to follow, such that we are mostly conscious of the experience of being compelled, of feeling the force of “logical necessity.” What is primary is what I have been in the habit of treating as a LOGIC OF ASSENT, which does not start with premises, but with examples, which we literally follow. What takes the place of logical complusion is, that is to say, assent to what follows from the example. Note here that the demonstrative mode depends fundamentally on the logic of assent: you must first assent to the premises, and if you don’t, the conclusions is in no way compelling. But more importantly, this is a mode of reasoning that does not require compulsion.
Spring & All and Paterson : theory & practice Both exemplify the principle that theory invariably follows praxis, practice, action. It cannot start at all without assent, but since it operates almost entirely in the domain of unevaluated commonplaces, we simply do not notice what we have, thoughtlessly, already assented to. So if you are looking in Paterson (I would go much farther: any poem that you experience as an event) for the kinds of ordering elements we have inherited from Aristotle: plot (mythos); character (ethos, both specific character and personages); language (lexis); music (harmonia); thought (logos); spectacle (opsis), you will be deeply frustrated: the poem is not a schema to which its lines and elements can be reduced. It is, if we are hankering for an abstract vocabulary, a matrix of relations, which we either recognize or not, in a process of connection to which we either assent or not. Thus, if we find an already accepted “theory,” to which we may or may not assent, for reasons we have not ever isolated for analysis, the notion that you can either follow the theory, or worse, apply it, is from the start incoherent. There is no waythat you could evaluate the theory without assenting first to the example for which it is a putatively applicable theory. And even at the best, you would have merely turned the example into a schema of the theory, and thereby miss the poem with a tolerably high degree of completeness. SO what is at stake is both a reassessment of how you reason, and a fundamental reordering of what it means to read.
The language is missing them they die also incommunicado. The language, the language fails them They do not know the words or have not the courage to use them . --girls from families that have decayed and taken to the hills: no words. They may look at the torrent in their minds and it is foreign to them . They turn their backs and grow faint—but recover! Life is sweet they say: the language! --the language Is divorced from their minds, the language . . the language! Spring & All, 187 So long as the sky is recognized as an association is recognized in its function of accessory to vague words whose meaning it is impossible to rediscover its value can be nothing but mathematical certain limits of gravity and density of air , , , 192 A work of the imagination which fails to release the senses in accordance with this major requisite—the sympathies, the intelligence in tis selective world, fails at the elucidation which is – In the composition, the artist does exactly what every eye must do with life, fix the particular with the universality of his own personality—Taught by the largeness of his imagination to feel every form which he sees moving within himself, he must prove the truth of this by expression. . . . Only through the imagination is the advance of intelligence possible, to keep beside growing understanding. Complete lack of imaginat6ion would be the same at the cost of intelligence, complete. Paterson I, p.11
From The Autobiography, 148 “The Waste Land”
Return: Einstein: What is Thinking From Schlipp, p. I-7: “What, precisely, is ‘thinking’? When, at the reception of sense-impressions, memory-pictures emerge, this is not yet ‘thinking.’ And when such pictures form series, each member of which calls forth another, this too is not yet ‘thinking.’ When, however, a certain picture turns up in many such series, then—precisely through such return—it becomes an ordering element for such series, in that it connects series which in themselves are unconnected. Such an element becomes an instrument, a concept (Begriff).[note that this is Coleridge’s Idea, since it cannot be a concept of stuff which always entails that the members of the series are connected through the categories-LS] I think that the transition from free association or ‘dreaming’ to thinking is characterized by the more or less dominating role which the [Begriff] plays in it. It is by no means necessary that the [Begriff]must be connected with a sensorily cognizable and reproducible sign(word); but when this is the case thinking becomes by means of that fact communicable.”
schedule • To minimize disrupting the existing schedule, we will shorten discussion of Collected poems V 1 and start with Paterson I-IIWed: 4-17: In the American Grain: Ian Corey-BouletMonday, 4-22: Paterson I-II, Conor SutherlandWednesday, 4-24: Paterson III, Emily ThompsonMonday, 4-29: Paterson IV-V, Ned SchaumbergWednesday, 5-1: Pictures from Breughel (in Coll v.2), Ryan YouellMonday, 5-6: Journey to Love, Desert Music: Tavid Mulder, Patrick MilianWednesday: Group discussion on Williams.Monday, 5-13 The Necessary Angel, Carolyn Callaghan, Sam HushagenWednesday: Harmonium (Searle)Monday 5-20: Stevens, 1936-1937 Sophia (Szu-Han) ChenWednesday, 5-22: Supreme fiction and Auroras, SearleWednesday 5-29: The Rock & Opus Postumous, Heather LoeppMonday: European & Latin American, Brad Gerhardt (Rilke)Wednesay: Last session