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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...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yet another attempt

I left this comment on a previous post, but maybe it deserves a blog post of its own:

I guess you could say the purpose of a painting is to cover a stain on the wall. That might be true for any given painting and wall. It might also be true that the entire debate makes little sense (Vance) or that not everyone shares the existential wonder about the very existence of music or poetry. In fact, my experience in academia shows me that my own position is not universal even among people who devote their lives to that study. I fear I have fallen into "Mayhew's fallacy" again: the fallacious universalization of my own experience. Curiously, I am most prone to this fallacy when I am trying to arrive at statements that are completely bland and non-controversial, like "the purpose of poetry is to be wonderful poetry."

5 comments:

Vance Maverick said...

How do you handle the change of purpose of artifacts over time and context? For an obvious example, I like lots of paintings which were created for devotion. Take the Brera Altarpiece. Part of what I've done in engaging with it is to imagine viewing it in a devotional spirit, and find myself thwarted by its eccentricities. The discourse of purpose beckons in such cases toward a narrow interpretation of the work, one which would ultimately exclude me.

Vance Maverick said...

The same arises, of course, when reading e.g. George Herbert. I suspect neither you nor I does with those poems what Herbert would have said was their purpose. If we're strict about it, we may end up lumping them with devotional verse and either denying ourselves the somewhat different pleasures that can be found in them by a reader outside the faith, or trying to shoehorn those pleasures into a narrative about a Christian reader we don't really understand.

Jonathan said...

I'm not a buddhist either, in fact I don't share the exact creed of almost any poet. I guess I gave up the problem of poetry and belief a long time ago.

Vance Maverick said...

Sorry, didn't mean to suggest you hadn't worked through this. Rather, I'm trying to show that you already re-purpose poetry to suit yourself (and this is fine!).

Jonathan said...

No problem. What I meant to suggest is that I used to be very concerned with that problem and not so much any more. Maybe I've just outgrown it.