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Tzela Vieed

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About Tzela Vieed

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  1. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Good Philosophy vs. Bad Philosophy   

    Goethe once wrote that architecture is frozen music; if you replace ‘architecture’ with ‘philosophy’ and ‘music’ with ‘thought’, I’d say you have as good a definition of philosophy as any. But then again, I am not a true Scotsman. Er, a philosopher, I mean. What do I know?


    (p.s. Thanks for the link to that fallacy site, )
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  2. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   

    I’ve thought of another new word just now: disinterpretation. It indicates a blatantly fallacious interpretation, made in full consciousness of its perverse and antithetical relation to the material being interpreted.

    Furthermore, Bloom’s refusal to consider this important concept in his book—his coming to a halt before mere misinterpretation— is clear evidence that he is unwilling to consider the seamy side of literary creativity.
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  3. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   


    Yes, I know, it’s why I called him perverse up in my original post.



    So does that make Bloom a mishermeneutician?

    Actually, you’ve reminded me of a question that kept occurring to me while I read: how does Bloom’s Freudianism-by-analogy interact with Freudianism proper? He endorses both, but that seems to imply a worldview where a poet’s psyche is very different from those of other people, and not susceptible to family dynamics in the literal sense, which looks suspiciously like the resuscitation of a Romantic cliché. The other possibility that occurs to me is that he considers Freudian dynamics to be subsumed by his own anxiety of influence (Tessera? ) .
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  4. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   


    I’m not quite sure what we’re disagreeing over, but I would say exactly the opposite: once you rule out the possibility of an authoritative interpretation, then ‘misinterpretation’ becomes a meaningless term, because all interpretations are fair game. They aren’t correct, but they aren’t incorrect either—and the word ‘misinterpretation’ definitely implies error.
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  5. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   

    I am not familiar with Rorty’s work, so I did an internet search. I can see where Bloom might approve of it. Bloom rejects the possibility of an ‘objective’ reading of a poem: not only does he value creative interpretations, but he believes that “There are no interpretations but only misinterpretations.”

    (Which leads me to wonder why he chose ‘misinterpretation’ as his default term when he has no other kind of interpretation to contrast it with. When Bloom writes “Poetry is misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misalliance,” he could just as easily have written: “Poetry is understanding, interpretation, alliance,” and nothing but the sordid connotations would have been lost. )
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  6. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   

    There isn’t any way to learn to write poetry that doesn’t involve exposure to other peoples’ poetry. In the West, this has usually meant exposure to your contemporaries’ poetry, to the verse that was popular and admired, and to ancient Greek and Roman poets. You could only innovate as much as your readers could tolerate, if you wanted them to remain your readers.

    That only implies that you have to be a student of poetry, rather than a student of the history of poetry, but the situation is a little more complicated now. There is no poetry that is both contemporary and widely-read, and most people will never encounter ‘literary’ poetry outside of an academic setting. Your readers are going to be critics and other people with degrees in literature, and I’m sure the decisive question for many poets is: do you want to be less educated than your readers?

    In this climate, it is even harder to be avant-garde than to be traditional if you aren’t familiar with the history of poetry since the Renaissance. The people who are most likely to read your work tend to see novelty as the first requirement of a good poem (and often the last requirement, too). They will notice every echo of a past poet, and while they value intentional references, only saying what has been said before is different matter. In practice, it is much easier to accidentally approximate a poem you haven’t read than one you have: an education in the history of poetry teaches, among other things, how not to write.

    (Of course, there are other reasons to study the history of poetry—such as trying to figure out how the contemporary scene got to be so ridiculous. )

    Bloom would consider all of this perfectly natural, even necessary, for an art with so much history behind it. I think he’s wrong, precisely because of this:



    Poetry doesn’t require it, but the subculture surrounding poetry does.

    Outside of academia, there are groups of poets who don’t study the history of poetry and just write it, but they also tend consider all criticism anathema. If only there were a way to get good criticism without having to deal with critics.
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  7. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   

    The Anxiety of Influence was most interesting to me as an experiment in finding the limits at which poetry and its history cease to make sense as self-contained. Bloom’s hypothesis is the radical one that poetry is entirely self-contained; there is nowhere for poetry to come from except for other poets.

    His approach is the opposite of that taken by critical schools that completely reduce poetry to something socioeconomic, cultural, or psychological—but it may be just as reductive. What Bloom’s criticism reduces poetry to is something he calls “the True Subject,” “imaginative identity” or “the poetic self”. He doesn’t actually explain the significance of these terms, and as he is often takes his metaphors from myth without making it clear what they are metaphors for, it ends up sounding rather mystical.

    Bloom did clearly state that his study of influence did not involve tracing the use of themes and imagery from one generation to the next, or comparing their use in poets who are or were contemporaries. He even seemed contemptuous of the suggestion, implying that he was studying something deeper and more important. But I would much rather have that sort of criticism, and I don’t see how Bloom could practice his without recourse to those methods.
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  8. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   

    I was hoping you’d stop by, since I recall your having mentioned the book in passing a while back. I’m especially glad since you seem to be on Bloom’s wavelength, and can perhaps convince me that he isn’t quite as perverse as my first impression has led me to believe. (Although Bloom would probably consider that a compliment. )

    I found Bloom’s assertion that misreading is necessary to be dubious. That something you could call an ‘anxiety of influence’ has existed among poets from the Romantics onward is impossible to deny if you’ve spent time reading them, and it does indeed seem to be an even larger concern for contemporary poets who have that much more history behind them. But I see no reason to consider it necessary.

    Bloom writes that it is “the realization that [the poet] has failed to create himself” that leads to anxiety, thus requiring the misreading of those poets who helped to shape him. But to think that it’s possible to be entirely self-created is an error—possibly an error arising out of solipsism, which Bloom also feels to be necessary, and feels so strongly that he never attempts to offer his readers justification. All I can say is that I have never felt this necessity, and that when I first read Goethe’s statement that everything great had already been thought, and that it only remained to think it again, the fact that others felt otherwise ceased to bother me.
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  9. Tzela Vieed added a topic in Read   

    Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"
    A few days ago, I finished reading Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence. I really have no reason to write a finished essay on it, but keeps bugging me to post stuff , so I thought I’d share some of my notes here (edited so as to be intelligible), and perhaps spark some interesting discussions/digressions/etc.

    The book’s full title is The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, and although it doesn’t have the same popularity today as it did 40 years ago, when it was published, it has altered the practice of criticism in America enough to be considered a classic. Bloom’s book proposes a system for interpreting poetry based on a poet’s relation to his or her predecessors—or, in practice, the poem’s relation to earlier poems— in terms of a struggle for dominance analogous to Freudian Oedipal relations. In three words: kill your predecessor, marry the muse.

    I don’t get the impression that Bloom’s theory is currently in favor with significant critical schools or poets (for a given value of ‘significant’), but it is quite common to find relationships between poets expressed in genealogical terms. Even if Bloom wasn’t the first to do so, his book has probably influenced this practice, even for people who haven’t read it. At any rate, it has managed to win over a fair number of critics.

    As for poets, they seem to either ignore it, since it is incapable of helping anyone write better, or to loathe it for excluding their favorite poets from the Western Canon, accusing their preferred critical theory of resentment, and/or general pomposity. Poets-as-poets are Harold Bloom’s favorite subject, but they are clearly not his target audience.
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  10. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic What books are you reading now?   

    A couple weeks ago, I came across the sticky note on which I’d written several book recommendations from , including Right Ho, Jeeves. Thanks so much, Null! Once I got to the prize-giving scene I didn’t think it could possibly get any funnier, but the ending topped it. I’ve got a long car trip coming up soon, and I’ll definitely be taking another Jeeves novel along.
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  11. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic electronic music   

    Thanks for the links, I’ll definitely have a listen. Every once in a while I hear a piece of electronic music I like and, excited, I go looking for more songs in hopes of finding a new genre to explore. I haven’t been successful so far, but you never know.

    I find I do better with purely instrumental electronic music: manipulated vocals are very hard to get into. (Of course, everything we listen to nowadays has undergone serious editing—what I mean is the choppy or robotic-sounding voices.)

    What I mainly grew up with was classical music, as well as whatever happened to be on the radio at the time. Even then, I was mostly indifferent to the latter. My younger self seems to have had a very strong preference for minor keys.
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  12. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic What books are you reading now?   

    While browsing the foreign language section of a local library, I found the book Introduction to German Poetry and decided to see how far my rudimentary knowledge of German would take me. On an impulse, I also made a trip to the CD section and checked out half a dozen or so CDs of lieder as well. Why not? And because I wasn’t taking any classes, and didn’t have anything I particularly needed to be doing, I decided to start on the whole lot of them at once.

    This lasted until I happened upon the following poem by Heinrich Heine:

    “Ich wollte, meine lieder”

    Ich wollte, meine Lieder
    Das wären Blümelein:
    Ich schickte sie zu riechen
    Der Herzallerliebsten mein.

    Ich wollte, meine Lieder
    Das wären Küsse fein:
    Ich schickt’ sie Heimlich alle
    Nach Liebchens Wängelein.

    Ich wollte, meine Lieder
    Das wären Erbsen klein:
    Ich kocht’ eine Erbensuppe,
    Die sollte köstlich sein.


    The poem’s literal translation, as given by my book:

    “I wish that all my songs”

    I wish that all my songs
    Were little flowers:
    I would send them to be smelled
    By the darling of my heart.

    I wish that all my songs
    Were delicate kisses:
    I secretly would send them all
    To my sweetheart’s little cheek.

    I wish that all my songs
    Were little peas:
    I would cook a pea soup
    Which would really be delicious.



    After over 24 straight hours of being immersed in depressing German poems and lieder—my volume was mostly romantic poetry, which mostly concerns death, longing for death, moonlight, nightingales, and unrequited love—this seemed unspeakably hilarious. Perhaps you had to have been there. At any rate, I’m never going to be able to take a certain kind of poem seriously after this. I may never be able to take anything seriously ever again.
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  13. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Beowulf   

    Sounds like Wright gave up without much of a fight. Even if the poetry can’t be translated—Robert Frost once defined poetry as that which cannot be translated, and it’s worth thinking about—there are many alternatives besides unadorned prose. I prefer Tolkien’s solution. While translation may not be able to bring the poetry across, exactly, the translator can still recreate those aspects of the original work that made it worthwhile to translate in the first place.

    Interestingly, Tolkien attempted a verse translation in Beowulf’s poetic idiom before he wrote his prose translation. I suppose he must have found something about the original draft unsatisfactory—anyone’s guess as to what. But to consider whether the verse translation would have been more authentic than the prose translation, or more authentic than Wright’s, is a little beside the point. A reader whose primary concern is the authenticity of what he’s reading only has one real option: learning Old English.
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  14. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Beowulf   



    I’d be interested to know Wright’s rationale for this. I think an unadorned prose translation could be useful, especially for someone who plans to read multiple translations of Beowulf and wants to get a good grasp on the content first, inasmuch as it can be isolated. But from what you've said, it almost sounds like Wright has a problem with Beowulf itself, which is hardly a straightforward narrative in straightforward language.
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  15. Tzela Vieed added a post in a topic Beowulf   

    , I just got a copy of Beowulf as a gift yesterday. It's J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation. Here’s another opening for you:

    Lo! the glory of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days of old we have heard tell, how those princes did deeds of valour. Oft Scyld Scefing robbed the hosts of foemen, many peoples, of the seats where they drank their mead, laid fear upon men, he who first was found forlorn; comfort for that he lived to know, mighty grew under heaven, throve in honour, until all that dwelt nigh about, over the sea where the whale rides, must hearken to him and yield him tribute—a good king was he!

    I haven’t read the introduction yet, but I’m willing to bet this is meant to be read aloud. Partly because the dramatic, oratorical language calls out for it, partly because I have read Tolkien’s essay, “The Monsters and the Critics,” and he makes it clear that he’d rather see Beowulf enjoyed as a good story than studied to death. There doesn’t seem to be a footnote in the entire book. But if the incorporation of the kenning “whale-road” in the opening is any indication, poetry hasn't been sacrificed to accessibility, either.

    I actually have two other translations, but only one I have access to at the moment: Seamus Heaney’s verse translation. Let’s have the opening one more time.

    So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
    and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
    We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.
    There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
    a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
    This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
    A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
    as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
    In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
    beyond the whale-road had to yield to him
    and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.

    In contrast to Tolkien’s, Heaney’s translation is matter-of-fact— even deliberately undramatic. But in diametrically opposite ways, they’ve both given dignity to the text.

    More later.
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