22 February 2009

Allen Grossman

[from Allen Grossman and Mark Halliday's The Sighted Singer: Two Works on Poetry for Readers and Writers, Johns Hopkins, 1992]

[excerpt from "Summa Lyrica: A Primer of the Commonplaces in Speculative Poetics"]


21. The didactic of lyric flows from the example of majesty.

Scholium on didacticism. Lyric is, like all poetry, didactic in nature. But its didactic is not normally the rational didactic of useful sentences, the didactic of prudence. The didactic of lyric is normally the didactic of eidetic exemplification, which is the contradiction of the didactic of prudence. The didactic of lyric teaches the possibility of surviving the labor of manifestation in the one world, the world of manifestational scarcity. In the lyric "space of appearance" all being is celebratory. (This is true in the same sense that all representation has about it the quality of celebration.) The speaker in lyric has mastered the process of manifestation, and endured the tragic losses which manifestation entails, without being destroyed. The speaker in lyric has not lost heart. To go on speaking, not to lose heart, is an occasion of celebration and an attribute of majesty.

But majesty also implies the privileges of dominance and the solitude of sovereignty. In the sense in which didacticism promises the transmissibility of usable knowledge, the example of majesty is antididactic, unreal, the origin of order as the king is the origin of order, but not itself the subject of law, as kings were not the subject of law. The didactic of the example of majesty includes the didactic of the counterexample. For the speaker in lyric is also mythic and the function of myth is to repel life, to generate by differentiation. The sentiment of majesty is an occasion of the consciousness of difference. From majesty there goes forth the consciousness of difference by which the natural person is measured and made whole. The encounter with the person in lyric shatters the homogeneity of the encounters of the natural person.

21.1 Majesty is the quality which mastery of contradictory natures (the animal, the citizen, and the god) confers upon the human voice.

21.2 An image cannot be reciprocated, and therefore cannot be loved. The person we really meet and not the image is the beneficiary.

21.3 When the voice across time is attended to, the human image is remembered. In the didactic of lyric there are no teachers; there are only rememberers.

21.4 There are no inhuman uses of the speaking person.

21.5 Bent on the unpacking of the skein, humanity deals less treacherously with itself.

The Sighted Singer: Two Works on Poetry for Readers and Writers

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