Monday, 06 November 2006

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Close-Reading Exercise: A Good Bad Reading of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Part III [This would be the third installment of my insanely close reading of Keats "Ode on a Grecian Urn." You can find the first here, the second here. I know some of you must be bored by now, but I must say I feel like a scientist who—having written the definitive treatise on the leaf—was handed a microscope and then—having written the definitive treatise on the cell—was handed an electron microscope, &c. The more attention I pay the more the poem yields. I will, however, interleave other posts in with the Keats come tomorrow. For now, to the show again!] I open with a few more lines than before: Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; And, happy melodist, unwearièd, For ever piping songs for ever new; More happy love! more happy, happy love! Why? Happy you should ask! I cannot tell you how happy I am at this happy coincidence! It is a most happy, happy coincidence! Wait—what do you mean? I am not trying to hard. Does it sound like I'm trying to hard? Does not. Does not! Does not! You may have a point. This stanza screams of argumentum ad nauseam. You want something to mean what you think it should, you repeat yourself until no one cares to challenge you or—not to be topical or anything—until people begin to mumble your words under their breath as they stumble into pool halls and voting booths. In this example, the speaker needs you to believe the boughs are happy, happy with their perpetual plumage. Maybe they are. Maybe pain follows every leaf plucked by wind or wanton hand, and so the thought of keeping its foliage lushed and unplucked in perpetuity appeals to the bough. That, at least, is what the speaker assumes. Of course, since he anthropomorphizes the tree, I should have license to. Perhaps Spring is the deciduous equivalent of our awkward, teenage years. Perhaps every tree dreads the arrival of Spring, what with the budding pains, the pericarpal outbreaks—not to mention the inevitable heart rot. Why should we assume that trees are happy in Spring? The Western Tradition? Is the one Keats and his speaker shared the same as the one the Roman potter and his clientele did? Not necessarily. In diction, Keats and his speaker betray an aware of this. The boughs "cannot shed" their leaves. Not "will not shed" but cannot." Despite its overwhelmingly happy happiness, the tree has been prevented from acting, prevented from doing what it would do left to its own devices. Coupled with the coercive repetition, this characterization of an anthropomorphized tree seems cruel and unnecessary. Had the tree just been a tree, I wouldn't bother—but anthropomorphize it and its inclusion in the scene becomes disturbing. I suppose the attribution of agency hangs me up here, but with repeated readings that first line begins to resemble the words of a serial killer to his victim: "Tell me how happy you are. Tell...
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BREAKING NEWS: GOP FEARS ELECTIONS "NOT CLOSE ENOUGH TO RIG" WASHINGTON - Emails obtained by the Associated Press indicate that top Republican officials now believe that the margin of victory will be too high to rig the results. "A four or five percent margin, we can handle," said a GOP official from Connecticut. "But eight or higher? That's asking the implausible." With Bush's approval ratings low and the war in Iraq unpopular, Republicans conceded that the Democrats would gain some seats in Congress, but secretly they believed some races would be close enough that the strategies which were so effective in recent elections could be used again. "We did what we could ahead of time," said one key Kentucky Republican strategist. "Purged eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process voter registration cards from Democratic GOTV drives, allocated fewer voting machines to predominantly Democratic districts. We even tried some new ones." "I was up until 6 a.m. calling people on behalf on the Democratic Party," said a Republican campaign worker manning the phones in Tennessee. "Then my boss comes in and tells me to stop. Says now I'm supposed to tell people that they're registered in another state and will be arrested if they try to vote. Between you and me, I think I might dozed off a few times and sleep-trashed the Democrats." Party officials believe such mistakes may have cost them the chance to throw the election. According to Guy Kenner, a Republican strategist in Virginia, "You can only disenfranchise and discourage so many eligible voters. In the last election, the GOP exceeded the number of voters they could drive from the polls by 13 percent. For some reason, people insist on voting this year." The expected record number of voters stymied Republican plans to tamper with the elections after the fact. In Clermont County, Ohio, where optical scanners are used to tabulate the votes, officials stand beside boxes of white stickers, ready to cover Democratic votes and replace them with Republican. "We're ready. Soon as we hear from the RNCC, we'll start 'counting' the 'votes,'" said one poll worker. He may have a long time to wait. "You can see their confidence eroding. Even they're using scare quotes," said Orin Freeman, a poll observer in Clermont County during the 2002 election. His wife, Kathy, recalled that "in 2002, they were covering Kerry's name with stickers and filling in Bush's name before people even voted. From 11 a.m. on they were turning people away, telling they've already voted twice." In nearby Warren County, plans to fake a terror threat on a county administration building have been all but called off. "Looks like we're actually going to have to count them this time," said a dejected GOP volunteer leading a vigil outside the building. Correction: The original title of this article implied that Republicans didn't know the difference between "rigging" an election and "throwing" one. As this confusion has been imputed to the author of this article instead of its target, the title has been changed.

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