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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dancing About Architecture

We've all heard that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Yet writing about writing seems problematic in the opposite way. When reading essays about other essays I've come across a problem of insufficient critical distance. The essay merely summarizes the previous essay, adding very little else. I could then write summaries of those essays and call it a study of the critical reaction to the first essayist. Publishing my book, my study of the critical reaction, I could then read book reviews that summarized my summary of other people's summaries of the original essayist, some of whose work summarizes other thinkers.

Criticism of novels that summarizes the plot and discusses what happens to the characters as though they were real people runs into similar dead-ends. With poetry, we don't run into this problem. The critic of poetry always has to frame a critical problem.

I'd much prefer dancing about architecture. At least I would be able to keep the dancing logically separate from what it was about, the buildings.

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This post from Bemsha Swing got 70 views in less than 24 hours. I'm not sure why. Nobody has commented on it or linked to it, as far as I can tell.

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