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Monday, October 31, 2016

Wallace Stevens and the Art of Titling

We know Wallace Stevens had some great titles.

The Emperor of Ice Cream.  13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. The Motive for Metaphor.  No Possum, no Sop, no Taters. Anecdote of the Jar.  An Ordinary Evening in New Haven. The Domination of Black. Le Monocle de Mon Oncle. The Plain Sense of Things. Auroras of Autumn. Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction.  

That's just from memory. Ashbery, too, got the knack of titling from Stevens, I suppose.

The Favor of a Reply.  Well, yes, actually. Title Search.  What do you call it when.  Mutt and Jeff.

As you can tell, Ashbery's are more "found" than constructed.

The other philosophy of titling is that the title should be almost nothing.  It should not call attention to itself.  Obviously I am in more of the Stevens's camp.

There is the "completist" school of titling. For an academic article, that means putting in all relevant information and writing a title as long as medium-length sentence.

There is minimalist titling: get as many elements as you can into a short space, but not too many elements.

There is a grammar and rhetoric of titling. A prosody too. Too many elements have the disadvantage of not being memorable or of clouding the reader's mind with too much information.

Here are some of mine:

“Poetic Literacy 101: Beyond Nervous Cluelessness” [Geoffrey Pullum]

“De la luminosa opacidad de los signos: el texto visual de José-Miguel Ullán” [José Ángel Valente]

The Persistence of Memory: Antonio Gamoneda and the literary Institutions of Late Modernity.” [Salvador Dalí]   

 “Three Apologies for Poetry: Discourses of Literary Value in Contemporary Spain" [Sidney, Shelley]

“A Poet’s Theatre: Lorca on the American Stage from Prometheus in Granada to Barbarous Nights.”

 “‘At Last the Secret is Out’: Re-reading Jaime Gil de Biedma” [Auden]

“What Lorca Knew: Teaching Receptivity" [Henry James] 

 “Was Lorca a Poetic Thinker?” 

I've put in brackets some of my allusions.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are fantastic.