Sorry for the long-windedness yesterday. Looks now like a hodge-podge proto-essay, which somebody else will write if I don't get crackin'.

& the "list of paradigms" is not very gripping, much less complete. I'm going back to RS Crane's book Languages of Criticism and the Structure of Poetry.

As I was taking my shower this morning, was thinking that the real focus of interest for me here, what woke me up at 3 a.m. the other day, was this :

By going back to Aristotle, the Chicago people found a way to re-frame a formalist criticism (ie. one that focused on what & how the poem does what it does - as opposed to thematic or other kinds of readings). Instead of reifying the poem in isolation - a la New Criticism - this framework creates a holistic sense of poetic form : not only text, but performance; not only an internally-balanced aesthetic object of beauty, but a dramatic shape, which has specific techniques for creating particular rhetorical effects and evoking particular responses in its audience (emotional, interpretive).

Not only text, but living expression - an offshoot of the living poet & his or her dramatis personae. (Goes back to places in this blog's archive where I thought about the difference between prose fiction & poetry.)

This is not really new : Horace developed a practical criticism which analyzed the poem's rhetoric. But Aristotle seems more fully-rounded : he can distinguish these rhetorical effects, yet in symbiosis with the analysis of the poem as a formal shape, a kind of verbal sculpture.

What I'm thinking is that a framework which includes both text & performance - both objective shape, and its effects, its resonance - could be generated as kind of a general platform for developing a new critical vocabulary to apply to contemporary work.

When you look less to the model of New Critical "close reading" of the internal texture of the diction, and more to the meanings and effects projected in the dramatic action which is the poem, you might find a more capacious fit between meaning & expression, style & its effects.

With some such framework, you might be able to talk about the seemingly odd & baroque expressive techniques of contemporary poets, in a way which shows their affinities, differences, inheritances from past poetries.

& it might give poets more confidence in the motivations which impel them to offer their artistic activities as some kind of contribution to society at large. If poems are art works - not texts to be "processed" into their ideological paraphrases; not exercises in some dys-Platonic scriptorium, but forms which absorb text, in order to unite writing with dramatic presence - we might have a new sense of the symbiotic relationship between style & theme, between diction & Aristotle's trio of powers (ethos, pathos, logos).

No comments: