Saturday, 05 August 2006

Turning the Autotelic on its Head, One Poem at a Time [X-posted from the Valve ] Continuing with the general theme of my scholarly shortcomings, I'm proud to annouce that I'm terrible at close-reading cold. Worse than that, even. Some people spin stupendous yarns on the spot. I spin my wheels. Unsuccessfully. Too much stupid gunk in the gears ... by which I mean, too much stupid-gunk in the gears, preventing my wheels from even spinning. My remedy? Mandatory close-readings. Cold. No preparation. No background research. I'm practicing a radical New Criticism here, the kind which only ever existed in the minds of its opponents. I hope to be a good Horacian and entertain while edifying, but fear that until I get better at this, the entertainment will be in the mocking and the edification nil. The first victim will be Robert Browning's "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." Of all the poems ever written since the dawn of time, I chose to open with this one because I've always had an affinity for Browning ... and because, since it's a dramatic monologue, the sad skills I've acquired reading novels may apply. Below the fold you'll find the temporarily autotelic little bugger as well as my New Critical gloss on it: Gr-r-r—there go, my heart's abhorrence! Water your damned flower-pots, do! If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence, God's blood, would not mine kill you! What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming? (5) Oh, that rose has prior claims— Needs its leaden vase filled brimming? Hell dry you up with its flames! At the meal we sit together; Salve tibi! I must hear (10) Wise talk of the kind of weather, Sort of season, time of year: Not a plenteous cork crop: scarcely Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt; What's the Latin name for "parsley"? (15) What's the Greek name for "swine's snout"? Whew! We'll have our platter burnished, Laid with care on our own shelf! With a fire-new spoon we're furnished, And a goblet for ourself, (20) Rinsed like something sacrificial Ere 'tis fit to touch our chaps— Marked with L. for our initial! (He-he! There his lily snaps!) Saint, forsooth! While Brown Dolores (25) Squats outside the Convent bank With Sanchicha, telling stories, Steeping tresses in the tank, Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs, —Can't I see his dead eye glow, (30) Bright as 'twere a Barbary corsair's? (That is, if he'd let it show!) When he finishes refection, Knife and fork he never lays Cross-wise, to my recollection, (35) As do I, in Jesu's praise. I the Trinity illustrate, Drinking watered orange pulp— In three sips the Arian frustrate; While he drains his at one gulp! (40) Oh, those melons! if he's able We're to have a feast; so nice! One goes to the Abbot's table, All of us get each a slice. How go on your flowers? None double? (45) Not one fruit-sort can you spy? Strange!—And I, too, at such trouble, Keep them close-nipped on the sly! There's a great text in Galatians, Once you trip on it, entails (50) Twenty-nine...
A Gigantic Non-Announcement & a Desperate Plea for Help A tremendous, life-altering announcement sits slightly over the horizon, but the details are not mine to divulge yet. If everything falls into place, the odds of my making a career of this academic thing have improved fifty-fold this weekend. So for now, I blog happy ... and all the world's tiniest violins play for me alone. Before I continue, I want to apologize for indulging in a bit of meta-blogging, but I'm working on my MLA presentation and need a little help. For the first time in months I spent 20 minutes digging through my profile on Technorati. I did so not from the rank vanity I'm barely six centimeters (if even) above, but because in the comments to this item I learned that the ratio of spam logs to actual blogs is 28:1. Pace this, I wondered how many of the blogs which link here are spam blogs, and whether that could account for the fact that if you look at Technorati's Acephalous page, you learn that I have 695 links from 264 blogs and that 954 blogs link to me. I've confessed my mathematical shortcomings before, but even I can see that 954 and 695 are different numbers. Anyone know how to account for the difference? Because reconciling these numbers could change some of the conclusions I draw during the MLA panel. I don't want to stand before the masses unaware of the egg on my face. All of which is only to say that I'm not sure I trust Technorati (or anyone who who fails worse than I at Excusing My Dear Aunt Sally). So if you've linked to me of late, drop me a line via email or in the comments below. Tomorrow afternoon I'll combine all the links of those who contact me with all the ones I can find by other means, in order to gauge the relation between my potential and actual readership. I know, you can barely contain your excitement at the prospect. But I promise that as soon as I tame this beast, you'll suffer no more meta-posts from these quarters. (Or any others I may inhabit.)

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