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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Friday, February 25, 2022

docto oficio / Machado's humble brag

...  dejar quisiera

mi verso, como deja el capitán su espada,

famosa por la mano viril que la blandiera,

no por el docto oficio del forjador preciada.  

We know that the poet is explicitly saying that he wants to leave his verse behind, famous like the sword of the virile captain, for the captain himself, not prized for the learned crafstmanship of the forger.  

But these lines, in which this message is expressed, are themselves an example of the "docto oficio."  Look at how the poet makes the lines fit into the metrical pattern by altering the word order.  In normal syntax, he would have said "quisiera dejar mi verso como el capitán deja su espada, famosa por la mano viril que lo había blandido, no preciada por el docto oficio del forjador." The tone and vocabulary is very culto, not popular at all.  Most readers will see through the language to the meaning, instead of seeing that language itself. In so doing they kind of miss the point. Machado is saying, look, I can do this virtuosic verse thing too, even though I'd really like to be admired for other things. I'm not an aesthete, but that's by choice. He can shift tones and registers at will, like "el lecho donde yago" instead of "la cama en que duermo." Performances of humility are always rhetorically interesting, because they have to have some aspect of the "humble brag."  

The phrase "docto oficio" is itself a rhetorical figure called "epithet," in which the adjective comes before the noun instead of after to connote an inherent quality of the noun.  

Metrically, the lines divide up into two groups of seven syllables:  

mi verso, como deja /  el capitán su espada,

famosa por la mano / viril que la blandiera,

no por el docto oficio / del forjador preciada.  

There is another figure of diction, I'm not sure if it has a name, but notice how the two parallel clauses have opposite word orders? He begins with "famosa" but then makes you wait to the end to get to the word "preciada."  

Dream of novel

 This dream had the texture of a 19th century novel. The female protagonist was getting married to a self-important prig. Before the ceremony, he said:  "I have one question to ask you before we wed.  What do you want me to call you?" She said: "Anna."  "No, he said. Many couples have numerous pet names for each other. For example, you can call me Henry, Harry, Hank, Hen, Hon..."  He rattled off a list of possible nicknames,  suggesting they change names every month. Clearly, she did not like that. 

They seemed to be married now, but she was spending most of her time with another male friend (me?). It was clear this was her true love, but divorce was not legal back then, and he [I?} didn't seem to want to make a move. It wasn't clear to me whether I was in the dream myself or the novelist / observer of the action.   

Thursday, February 24, 2022


 2. The titles of Jane Austen’s novels, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, follow a prosodic preference called the “law of lengthening limbs,” in which longer words come after shorter ones in certain set expressions. Anyone, even lacking a poetic ear, can hear that these titles sound better than Prejudice and Pride or Sensibility and Sense. For several weeks I am obsessed with this “law” and try to find as many examples (and counter-examples) as I can. Aid and abet. Trials and tribulations      

Wednesday, February 23, 2022


 3. Reading a Spanish poet, Olvido García Valdés, I begin to notice her pronounced interest in the prosody of overheard speech. I begin to collect my own examples. In an ordinary situation that does not seem to require it, a person is being too emphatic in their speech prosody. They are theatricalizing an experience that is seemingly banal (or perhaps there is a hidden agenda?). There is a disparity in the situation and the style of speech being used. Or a person is stating opinions very confidently about things that essentially unknowable, or desperately wants your agreement about something that is ultimately of no consequence to either of you. I can listen with interest to these events without even caring about what is being said.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2022


 4. In the poetry of one generation of Spanish poets coming up in the late 1960s, the so-called novísimos, there is a great deal of reference to the culture and literature of the English-speaking world. In the original editions of these books. I notice an abundance of typographical errors in the transcription of English proper names and the title of works. It is rare to have a name spelled correctly. One or two typos would simply be simply mistakes, but dozens of them lend a festive, almost hallucinatory quality to these poets’ vision of my own literary and cultural traditions. In subsequent editions of these poets’ works some of these errors disappear, but some persist for decades. 


 5. Thesis. This is what MFA students and their professors call the collections of poetry or novels that the students are working on for their degrees. Technically, this is correct: the rules of the academic institution require a “thesis” for a Master’s Degree. Yet by letting the institution name the very genre of their creative work the students are symbolically relinquishing any claim to be working in their own genres, whether lyric poetry or fiction. The thesis, however “creative,” must be named according to rules governing the granting of other academic credentials. 


I am very proud of my insightfulness, when I react to this use of word thesis so violently. I am undergraduate student, looking down on students older and more experienced than I am. But now, I think, why not call a group of oil paintings, or some choreography, or a book of poems, a thesis or a dissertation? Doesn’t that add an oddly poetic penumbra to these quintessentially anti-poetic words?


I imagine trying to explain both of these ideas to an MFA student and getting a puzzled reaction. He doesn’t understand either my initial reaction or my second, more subtle insight.     

Saturday, February 19, 2022


 6. Walking to kindergarten, I am puzzled as to why the cars on the street, coming from opposite directions, do not crash into each other. I may have been developing the concepts of right and left as they pertained to my own hands (I don’t remember now, fifty years later), but as a five year old I didn’t apply right and left to patterns of traffic. I sensed that there is something very obvious that I had not yet learnt.   

Friday, February 18, 2022

What if...

What if some ancient, obsolete religion turns out to be it.  The afterlife, for example, will follow a system of rewards and punishments never revealed to anyone except for one tribe living long ago, whose belief system died out when they happened to have been conquered by a neighboring people. This sounds absurd and unfair. But then does that mean that a religion being widespread or currently practiced increases its chances of being true? Wouldn't this must be the most vulgar possible form of epistemological relativism? 


Recently, some baptisms, performed over many years, were judged invalid because one particular priest had used we instead of I.  It seems improbable that humans could know the pronouns preferred by the deity.  This information would have to be revealed, and then to be preserved inviolate for centuries. Yet this grammatical problem is only a trivial manifestation of a much greater question...  


7. They say that mirrors reverse images, but if I write directly on the mirror, the writing is not backwards! A rubber stamp works in the same way: if I look at the stamp directly before dipping it in the ink-pad, the writing is mirror-writing, but if I stamp an image on paper the writing returns to normal. Nobody makes a big deal out of the fact that many other things reverse images in the same way a mirror does. 


Even footprints in the mud work this way, after all. A mirror that didn’t “reverse” an image would be like a boot in the mud that produced a footprint in which that boot itself would not longer fit: only the left boot would correspond to the footprint left by the right.      

Thursday, February 17, 2022


 8. Every time I read this novel, the same characters die. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022


 9.  “Vamos a otro asunto.” The stage director Lluis Pasqual claims that this means something different when pronounced in an Andalusian accent. In the Castilian accent of Nothern Spain it means: shut up, let’s change the subject because you are talking about something I don’t want to hear. According to Pasqual, in an Andalusian accent its emotional valence is more tender: don’t worry about that, we can safely let that matter rest and talk about something else.    

One of greatest ideas every, back from 9 years ago or so

 I'd like to imagine a computer that could design a human that could beat it at chess.  

A mistake is repeated

A mistake is repeated. Suppose one bangs one's shin against the same coffee table a second time. Now, one thinks that the mistake, and the consequent pain, would produce a "learning experience," but such is not always the case. In fact, the mistake occurs again--and maybe even a third or fourth time--through the same mechanism of the original occurrence. No action is taken after the initial accident; nothing has changed, neither the position of the table nor the habitual behavior of the person whose shin is repeatedly injured. 

A new book

 A new book came out in my field: analyses of art songs written by twentieth century Spanish composers based on Spanish poetry.  I wish I liked it more. The problem is that it's just bland and fails to engage with any intellectual interests of mine in a way that resonates with me. 

Writing about music is difficult. Verbal descriptions of music can easily fall flat, if nothing is really at stake at the level of ideas. They are just... descriptions. But visual descriptions can evoke images, and musical description evokes absolutely nothing, in many cases.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

 My ex got mad at me once for something I did in a dream.  Her dream.  I though that was unfair, because her dream was her own business. She feared my shortcomings, which is fine, but in this case I was powerlesss to do anything different. It wasn't me.  


 10. The interplay among pitcher, catcher, and batter. Or among a quarterback, receiver, and a defensive player trying to prevent the pass from being caught. The patterns of tension and release of tension are like those of a musical composition. My father told me he preferred games of situation, in which every discrete play is defined by a series of terms (bottom of the eighth, two men on base, one out, home team is behind three runs, so tieing run is at the plate). He wasn’t as fond of games of fluid motion, like basketball or hockey. These are two poetic systems that are equally worthy of respect.     


Sometimes the solution to a problem is simple. What obstructs our vision is a mistaken assumption in our minds. I could be searching for a book for a long time in my shelves, and think that the book's spine is a certain color. If I take away that preconception, then the book might appear to me.  

I could solve my problem with clutter by changing my attitude. What I see as a problem with clutter, outside of myself, is really a feature of my own mind: that I make faulty assumptions about what books or papers I will or will not need. The same goes for procrastination. I could make an assumption about how long something is going to take. If I think it will take 30 minutes, when it's actual duration is 3, then I might put it off. If I think it will take 30 minutes, and it actually takes 3 hours, then I will start to late and do a shoddy job.  

I can only reach an octave comfortably, and a ninth with some difficulty on the keyboard. I could think of this as a huge problem, or just an inconvenient fact that isn't going to get in my way at all. The person with huge hands who can reach a 10th won't worry about not reaching octaves. 


 11. A word has a semantic prosody. I am doubly fascinated: by the phemomon itself, and by the fact that the linguist has reached for the word prosody to describe it. This means the word as it is used most frequently. The word budge, for example, 


I realize that this is the key to Pound’s definition of logopoeia. The words habitual uses. A scientific word used in a non-scientific context. I could use the word budge, usually used negatively, in a positive context: “I budged 5 kilometers today.”   

Monday, February 14, 2022

Before and After

 Before working on musical adaptations of poetry, I often thought that the performance of the poem (certain kinds of performances) was a way of adding a spurious kind of performativity that the poem didn't really need. Because a bad reading of the poem in a stentorian voice was a bad reading, one that detracted from the poem rather than adding anything to it.  

And I also disliked musical settings that seemed to do that to the poem: superimposing a cruder musical structure on the more delicate music of the prosody itself. 

I still think that on certain days. That is, the prosody of the poem itself is already musical, and the music setting overrides this, making it impossible to perceive any more.  

Bright Star

 I saw a film about John Keats. Of course, we have to have some scenes of poetry writing, a very un-cinematic activity.  We have Keats writing and hear his voice intone some of his most famous lines, or Fanny walking through a garden and reciting lines from Keats. It's not that film cannot use poetic language effectively, in a variety of ways, but I feel that this is not an effective way. The lines are already too familiar. Seeing Keats listen to a Nightingale and then come up with "My heart aches..." just doesn't seem to work. 

Usually a drastically effective writing scene has to involve frustration, the writer ripping sheets of paper out of a type writer and tearing them up and throwing them in the waste paper basket. That seems to be the favored trope. 

I saw "Frida" again, and there were scenes of painting. That works a little better. Hayek looks enough like Kahlo to make it work, and manages to alternate between glamour and bodily decline, to offer the best of two worlds. A glamour role and one that allows for a large area of physical and mental pain.  


 l2. I read a book of prose reflections by a Spanish poet that promises to be full of the exact type of insight most people associate most strongly with poetry. To me, of course, it turns out to be self-congratulatory lyricism of a type that does not interest me in the least. I feel that in this case I am on the outside of poetry, somehow, but that my way of thinking is better. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022


 13. I notice that “critical thinking” and “creativity,” once they become educational bureaucrat or management consultant jargon, lose all meaning. Critical thinking comes to mean a series of rather routine elemental academic tasks. Creativity means creating an amusing doodle or cartoon of a business plan. Yet is what I’m doing, in defining poetic thinking, not just the same thing, susceptible to the same reductions?    

Saturday, February 12, 2022


 14. I go to see an exhibition of Lorca’s drawings in Madrid. I have seen them reproduced in glossy coffee table books, but the originals are drawn on paper of much worse quality, sometimes on the backs of napkins. Some of the originals are not in great physical condition. Their reproduction in art books, then, inevitably improves them, at least from one point of view—quite the opposite of the usual relation between original art work and secondary reproductions.  

Friday, February 11, 2022

Time Travel Aphorisms


I travel in time, but only in one direction, and at the expected speed.


There are two varieties of time travel: aging and memory. Often practiced simultaneously.


Time travel does exist. It is called getting older.


"Before the invention of time travel..."


Le temps, c'est moi.


 15. The way the human body reflects the imprint of an occupation or profession. The Spanish poet Claudio Rodríguez, in a course in postwar Spanish poetry, explained that to us in class one day. I don’t know the context any more, but I knew at the time it was a significant insight, and I still tell my own students about this. I know this is somehow related to the idea of professional deformation, the tendency of one’s mind to be influenced by the deep-rooted and distinctive patterns of thought needed to be an attorney, an accountant, a poet.      

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The uses of literature

 To me, the idea is that when you read something, it makes you think of something else analogous to what you are reading. It is a lateral move to something else.  

I found this document I was writing about poetic intuitions

Here is part 16:

16. I feel that if I enumerate too many examples, the category itself will dissipate. Why isn’t everything I see and feel a poetic insight? Would that be a bad thing? 


My grandfather taught my father to think like an accountant. My father, as a child of 12 maybe, wondered why a certain street car company claimed to be losing money, and my grandfather, a CPA sent him to the library to research it. It turned out that the parent company was charging its own subsidiary an inflated price for something or another, thus turning a profit into a loss through accounting trickery. My father was not an accountant like my grandfather, but a sociologist who taught me how to think like a sociologist. Consider someone who moves from the to West to the East coast and finds customs strange and different there. He moves back again to the West after ten years and finds that some peculiarly Eastern mores are now entrenched in the West too. What has happened? 


Thinking like a poet is a kind of professional deformation, like thinking like an accountant or a sociologist. There is also a kind of poetry in thinking like an accountant, though. We cannot define what it is to think like a poet, because all thinking like this is poetic.      

Cronopios y famas

 I see that Cronopios and famas was translated by Paul Blackburn. I am pleased by that, even without looking to see how good the translation is. I decided to teach my students this book this year, and they seem to like it. We listened to some of an interview with JC in which he describes his invention of the cronopios, in a Stravinsky concert in Paris, at intermission, when he sensed the presence of some beings passing by, like green balloons, and named them cronopios.  He says it not because Kronos = time, but then there is that vignette about the artichoke clock invented by one of them.  


Yesteray's wordle word in Spanish was albur.  It's kind of an obscure word even for me, making me think of Galdós and that period.  Today's word is also super-obscure, so much so that I'm surprised I got it at all. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

I found this story on my blog (2013); I had forgotten it

 I lived for a time among the frogs. There, I might have distinguished myself, as a man among frogs. I fully expected to. Yet I was never able to master the finer points of intonation and etiquette. A man trapped (for a time) in a frog's body, but without the advantage of having grown up among that peculiar people. I cannot say that they treated me with condescension, since such an attitude is foreign to them. In fact, their relative indifference to hierarchy might have been what prevented them from recognizing my own superiority. I couldn't even aspire to be a mediocre frog, since such a category did not exist for them. My lapses of taste (from their perspective, of course) did not inspire pity or disdain, only a kind of stolid complacency, not very divergent from their habitual attitude toward almost anything else. 

I wish I could say that I learned something from my time among them. Humility? That doesn't seem quite right. I have never been a humble man and a sojourn among them was not going to change that. Patience? I was not anxious to leave them. Nothing I learned among the frogs is applicable to my subsequent life as a man, nor did my human superiority give me any particular advantage among them.

Article Review & parking ticket, late for class, am I a Cronopio or a Fama?

 I took a job candidate out to lunch, got stuck in a traffic jam trying to get her to her next appointment on campus (in a city that doesn't have jams!), arrived 15 minutes late to class as a result (which never happens to me!), then had 45 minutes until the candidate's research talk.  Got a parking ticket because I had to leave my car on campus. Then taught my grad course from 4:15-7.  And yet I also managed in this time to read an article for a journal and accept it. I can't really explain it. I guess I must have read it in the 45 minutes between my first class and the talk, then submitted it after 7 from my office. Since it was a good article I didn't have to do as much work on it, and since I had only 45 minutes I had nothing better to do. They told me that Jo Labanyi and Enrique Alvarez had suggested my name as a reviewer, so obviously I had to say yes. 

I paid the ticket on line, and then appealed on the basis that it was my first ticket in 25 years, so I should get off with a warning. Obviously I was parked illegally, without a permit, but I figured that $25 is cheaper than $400, if I had purchased a permit I would rarely use. If you lose your appeal you have to pay another 10!  

(Then my students told me that parking is their major problem. They likened it to purchasing a ticket to a concert, that they might deny you entrance to when you actually show up. They said I should have gotten a warning for my first offense.)  

I was teaching Historias de cronopios y famas. Unless I look it up, I can never remember which is which. Cronopios are kind of impractical romantics, famas are  anal-retentive snobs. Esperanzas are nondescript beings who don't belong in either category. I've never been clear on them.  Today I was a total cronopio, arriving late and getting tickets, yet still managing to do an article review and teaching classes very well.    

Dream of Helping Someone With A Book Proposal

 Before the long dream of the movie, I dreamt that I was going to give feedback to a colleague in the German Department on his book proposal. In real life he writes beautifully, but in the dream he had submitted a dreadfully written proposal on Goethe and music to a publisher, and was surprised and disappointed to have it rejected without comment after having been encouraged by them up to that point. I had, somehow, to tell him what the problem was, but without hurting his feelings. The prose was turgid and full of jargon. 



 We were watching a movie, but so closely identified with the two main characters that we were actually experiencing the plot ourselves. We were investigating something and came to a building, entering we were told to make ourselves at home in the comfortable library down some stairs. We went down several flights. The architecture was cold and forbidding, and the staircases steep. At the bottom were a table of friendly people eating a meal. We wandered through the building, and gradually became aware of many people living there. The leader seemed to be this middle-aged woman with a German accent, who had superhuman strength. She easily carried up a 200-lb man up all of the stairs, with one hand, grabbing him by the belt. 

We were eventually assigned a chair; it seemed if we lived here longer we would get more space. The atmosphere was friendly, and meals were frequent. Now it seemed that the movie was a dystopian fiction, but nothing happened to confirm this: it was more a mood, but even then the mood among the denizens was a faux-cheer, like that experienced in a cult of some kind. The movie ended with an argument about when to leave. the male protagonist wanted to leave today (after breakfast) and the female companion wanted to stay. It was not clear that anyone could leave the compound. 

At this point the credits rolled. I noticed that it was based on a novel by Anne Rice, and directed by Isabel Allende. The title was Psyche. The genius of the film was that it never had to show anything menacing. It could end abruptly without anything ever happening. 


The dream ended. I woke up, fell asleep again, and entered the fictional world of the building. The movie was over, but somehow this was something that I could still access. I noticed the people used a euphemism for having sex: do you want to smear? At this point the dream has no more connection the original mood.      

Monday, February 7, 2022

Dream of Fear of Death

 This was a dream without any imagery. I was simply afraid of dying and then went on to explain to myself that dying was "part of the deal." In other words, it was not some added element to life, but a condition that was there all along. 

Sunday, February 6, 2022


 You can write

in dust

by taking away

the dust

Friday, February 4, 2022

Dream of Cricket

 There was a game similar to cricket, though somehow in the dream I could not come up with the word and said polo. We were at the house of someone who was following this game quite avidly, and made fun of me for taking too long to read the betting odds or scorecards for it. He was leaning toward me in an uncomfortable way as I sat on the couch. I asked the difference between this game, cravats or something like that, and polo. He said in cravats you scored point with the bat, not be catching the ball, so it was scored in reverse. Since I don't know the rules of cricket this somehow made sense to me.

 Different people kept coming up the stairs, so I asked how many people were staying at the house.  

At a restaurant the server expelled something from her mouth in gross way. Then sat down to keep us company. The woman I was with told her quite pointedly to keep some other people company, pointing to a large table with several people eating and drinking.   

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Modes of melodic minor

 We can derive modes by taking a C scale and beginng the scale on different notes. So D Dorian is DEFGABCD. Phrygian is EFGABCDE..  

We can also take the melodic minor, CDEbFGABC, and then derive 6 other modes, like DEbFGABCE. EbFGABCE, etc...   


Sports is the last place you want to argue for gender equality. 

The very existence of women's sports is due to the idea that women cannot compete with men on an equal footing. You could just have sports and not divide the competitors by gender or sex at all!  You could just have an NBA and not and WNBA. If a woman can play in the NBA, that is great.  

(So people pointing out that Nadal's 21 Grand Slam titles are still behind various women with more than 21 titles. Yes, that is true.  But Serena did not have to beat Federer or Andy Murray for a title.)  

Tío abuelo

My nephew's wife, Andrea, gave birth to a girl, Esme Vera Quiles, so now I am a great uncle (tío abuelo). My sister married Roberto, a Puerto Rican, so my great-niece is half Puerto Rican, and half black. My own daughter is also biracial (with a Japanese mother). My daughter Julia's husband has a Peruvian mother and a white father.  I suspect this experience is typical for my generation of white folks. We had a relatively homogenous ancestry, and then wanted to raise our children not to be racist. 

I found some stuff I wrote on my computer...

 Far from being the simple reflection of an autobiographical self, the lyric I is a fictive and profoundly unsettling construction, even in seemingly confessional modes. What could be said, then of the lyric you, which is, if anything, an even stranger literary convention? Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the lyric you is its absence from the scene of enunciation. This absence is not an invariable rule: it is possible to imagine addressees who are actually present to hear the message of the poem. Nevertheless, the presence of an addressee is not necessary, or even expected, for the act of enunciation to occur. Entire genres like elegy and ode, in fact, are founded on absence of the addressee: people who are no longer alive, inanimate objects, and abstract concepts will not be able to receive the message being directed toward them. In a love poem written for someone who is still alive, only one reader will happen to coincide with the lyric addressee, out of many potential readers of the poem. The poem survives the demise of the original poet and the addressee, taking on meaning in new contexts. We feel, then, that we are overhearing rather than hearing the message of the poem, but also, more importantly, that the message is meant to be overheard. 

Needless to say, there are two questions here: (1) whether the fictive addressee is seen to be present, fictively, in the scene, or could conceivably hear the message (as an epistle, for example), and (2) whether this addressee is actually the real addressee of the poem, or simply a place-holder. 

While the lyric purports to be overheard speech, it is actually a form of writing, and writing itself presupposes the absence of the addressee. Walter Ong, famously, argued that “the writer’s audience is always a fiction.” He explains: “Context in the spoken word is simply present, centered in the person speaking, and the one or ones to whom he addresses himself and to whom he is related existentially in terms of the circumambient actuality.” In writing, however, “the person to whom the writer addresses himself normally is not present at all […] Moreover, he must not be present. I am writing a book which will be read by thousands, or, I modestly hope, by tens of thousands. So, please, get out of the room. Writing normally calls for some sort of withdrawal.” 

While this is undoubtedly true of writing, this principle applies equally to song and other forms of the anonymous oral tradition in which the presumptive speakers and addressees no longer exist. The speaker of a proverb, for example, is never its originator. This brings about a strange paradox: lyric poetry puts speakers and addressees in the foreground, yet does so in a way that negates their actual presence. 

Émile Benveniste, in a brilliant analysis of the past tenses of French, posits two modalities of the language, which he call histoire and discours. In the histoire, the first and second persons of the verb are absent, along with references to the present of enunciation and all other forms of deixis. In discours, however, first and second person pronouns and verb forms reign supreme, along with other words that refer directly to the here and now of the scene of enunciation. History uses only a simple past tense (aorist) to refer to past event, whereas discourse uses only the passé composé, a perfect tense, for these purposes. The history / discourse distinction is not identical to that between speech and writing, since there can be written forms of discourse, like transcriptions of oratory, but the passé simple is found almost exclusively in writing. Benveniste notes the strangness of forms like je fis, which combine a first-person verb with a tense that is used almost exclusively in the third person.

The lyric presents a special case, since it is a written form, but one that strongly emphasizes the first and second persons. Lyric poetry remains a highly personal mode, in which the I and the you feel intensely present, but also one in which the both pronouns do not retain their normal function, given that lyric discourse is transparently artificial. 

The first and the second person are intimately linked. Benveniste links subjectivity in language to the personal pronoun I. “‘Ego’ est qui dit ‘ego.’” And subjectivity, the capacity to say I, itself is constituted by language. The reciprocal relation between me and you ensues as the next stage in his argument. By the same token, Benveniste thinks of the third person as not a person at all in the sense that the first and second persons of the verb are. as, essentially, an impersonal subject or a zero degree of subjectivity.  

While this use of pronouns is deeply strange, it is also familiar to everyone who has ever heard a popular song, whether it be a song from the popular anonymous tradition or from commercial mass culture. The singer who is not the author of the music or the lyrics is expressing a message that we attribute neither to the subjectivity of the original composers / lyricists nor (exactly) to the singer herself. The singer is singing to a live audience (or recording for another type of audience), but these potential audiences do not need to include the original addressee of the song (in the cases where we can posit such a thing) or even the you to whom the singer seems to be communicating. Anyone singing along at home to a recording of a song is singing I or you but without any necessary reference to any particular self or selves.   

Tuesday, February 1, 2022


 :Excessive literalism and symbol-mongering: both ways of avoiding the text, seeing it as about something else: a real life person, or an allegory: bad readers have to find a way of not reading, then: looking for an escape hatch.