Saturday, February 13, 2010

The quantum of wantum does not vary

... So it irritates me when people make out that now there are constraints of cultural/political/social situations, as if there used not to be. I don’t know a society in which there aren’t pressures to conform. And anyway I don’t think conforming is a bad thing. So I’m not one of those people who use the word ‘subversive’ as if it’s automatically a good thing: ‘The great thing about literature is that it’s so subversive’. There are lots of things which should not be subverted. The idea that you have shown that someone is a good writer because you have shown that he or she has challenged the orthodox opinion… Orthodox opinion is often immensely to be valued...


It suits people always to make out things were very bad in the old days so that there is need for new days. I’ve heard Empson and Eliot referred to as horse- and-buggy criticism. A lot of anger (mine and other people’s) in those matters had to do with mis-descriptions of the past. ‘We no longer believe in the myth of the solitary genius’. Now who did believe in the myth of the solitary genius? It’s the phrasing: ‘We no longer…’. ‘We are no longer naive empiricists’. Alright, now was Eliot a naive empiricist? It doesn’t look like it to me.


One big enemy of literary studies is recency, an inordinate claim, proportionately, for contemporary or recent literature. So I’m against the invention by literary theorists of the term ‘post-contemporary.’ It means being ahead of the minute. Being up to the minute is alright, but being ahead of the minute is even better.

-- Christopher Ricks, in an interview at The Literateur Magazine [!], via Daniel Pritchard


Is truth beauty and/or vice versa? Search me, but check out Adam Fitzgerald's swell new blog TheThe for some stabs at an answer, in a post called "The Ill-Wrought Urn?"

Illustration, above, by John Keats


Adam Fitzgerald said...

Thanks for the shout out, Don.

And for your comments in response to the question. It seems all of the queried only have fond appraisal for the Urn, which is fine by me.

As for my old teach Christopher Ricks, or as Larkin liked to call him, Crix, I asked him to opine on the matter too, since he hasn't before (oddly).

Christopher steers clear of the blogosphere, as you may imagine. His great line to me one time when I asked him if he had seen any recent Dylan videos online:

"I don't smoke marijuana, I don't visit brothels, I don't go to YouTube."

Don Share said...

Empson would have, I bet!