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by netrov
Rated: E · Folder · Educational · #311309
This concerns how a logocentric approach reveals the function of words in poetry.

“INTRODUCTION

TO A NUMBER OF ESSAYS AND ARTICLES BASED ON A “LOGOCENTRIC” APPROACH TO THE CRITICISM OF LITERARY TEXTS





What we say about words in the empirical realm will bear a notable likeness to what is said about God in theology.

Kenneth Burke The Rhetoric of Religion, California, 1970



As one who has written a considerable number of articles on literary subjects over the years, I feel the time has come to establish what unity, if any, underlies them. This I believe to have found in what I term the shared “logocentric” principles which have guided them, in some cases long before I became acquainted with this term or was able to put such a name to a methodology I had been unwittingly applying all along. The present discussion serves much the same the function as that of the introduction in a book containing an anthology of essays, articles and critical examinations. For the time being at least, I spare myself the effort required to organize a paper publication, as these articles can be accessed on the Internet and are therefore only a mouse click away. In time I may well opt for a conventional book publication in view of the volatility and hacker-related vulnerability to which websites on the Internet are prone. In a sense I give an account of a life-long wandering process of the kind in which one discovers one’s goal in the course of a long journey. Many a systematic study with its well marshalled facts owes more to this wandering process than some authors will admit, in view of the fact that so many discoveries have resulted from unexpected encounters or unintended findings, whether we are talking about the voyages of Columbus or the discovery of penicillin.

This study examines questions that many people have occasion to ponder without necessarily being academics, blue stockings, what have you. Why do we read a newspaper and discard it, having skimmed off the information we are interested in? Why, on the other hand, do so many of us cherish a volume of poetry and find poems an inexhaustible source of pleasure? Words are the raw material of farming manuals, poems, user instructions and novels in much the same way that charcoal and diamonds are allotropic forms of the same element, carbon. Perhaps it is only poets and writers of literature who exploit the depths of language that others, for very sound and practical reasons, must ignore. The writer of a business report or scientific article wants words to be like flat two-dimensional playing card expressing one clear sign, but in reality words are more like dice with several facets. When a dice reveals one number it must hide the one facing down in the process. Likewise poetry has depth as well as a flat surface. There is, however, little if any unanimity among theorists and scholars on a fundamental question, namely: Is the overall effect of words in a poem of a totally different order from that of non-literary prose in a newspaper, for example? . As we consider the meaning of the word “logocentric” I trust we may be in a better position to understand why it is, or is not, fundamentally different,and then we may possibly opt for one side of the fence or the other.

WHAT DOES "LOGOCENTRIC" MEAN?

According to its etymological components it can be rendered as ‘centred on the word’, a definition which in the domain of literary criticism refers to a methodological approach whereby one discusses or studies texts including poems, in which the occurrence, frequency, juxtaposition or other features of particular words form a focus of interest. Such a close concern with words is intellectually grounded in assumptions about the nature of words that have a philosophical or even theological background to judge by the significance of the term “logos” in the Gospel according to Saint John. Who knows, perhaps there Is there some connection between the Infinite and the infinitive. Not all critics share such assumptions but relegate words to a subordinate role in literature, for while no one can deny that words constitute the raw material of all literature, some critics see in them only the instigators of what they consider to be the fundamental entities in poetry, variously referred to as “images”, “symbols” or “musical” effects. The theories of those who adopt, or have adopted, a logocentric approach are usually based on a knowledge of linguistics, this being particularly evident in the case of the so-called Russian Formalists, who gained prominence shortly after the Russian revolution. The link between language and religion posited by Kenneth Burke in the citation above finds the unlikely corroboration of a comment which Leon Trotsky made about the Formalists of his day:

“The Formalists show a fast ripening religiousness. They are followers of St. John. They believe that ‘In the beginning was the Word’. But we believe that in the beginning was the deed. The word followed, as its phonetic shadow.”

From a translation of the original Russian article entitled in English “The Formalist School of Poetry and Marxism”. In Critical Theory since Plato, Hazard Adams , California, 1970. pp. 820-827



DE SAUSSURE AND THE RUSSIAN FORMALISTS

The theories of Formalists such as Roman Jakobson, Jurij Tynjanof, Boris M. Eichenbaum are rooted in Ferdinand de Saussure’s distinction between two fundamental aspects of language termed ‘langue’ and ‘parole’. ‘Langue’ signifies language as a complete system or code, the main aspects of which can be defined or outlined in dictionaries and grammar books. ‘Parole’ signifies any articulation of language in spoken or written form. According to the first category words have either a single meaning or, at most, a limited range of meanings that could well be listed in a dictionary. Those who do not subscribe to a logocentric approach but relegate words to some subsidiary role as the basis for images, quasimusical motifs and so on, tend to regard words only as signifiers limited to their lexical range of meanings. Thus Ezra Pound, a leading proponent of the Imagist school, ascribed to words the character of a fixed numeral while images, according to his argument, were infinitely variable, rather like algebraic symbols.




Jurij Tynjanov in an essay entitled in English translation “the Meaning of the Word in Poetry” ascribes to words much the same “algebraic” or infinitely variable capacity that Ezra pound did to “images”. Words, Tynjanov argued, are by no means limited in their significance to a narrow band of lexical definitions, as when they are understood to be merely elements of “langue.”

Words in articulated speech or writing, as participating elements of parole, are uniquely distinguished or “coloured” in Tynjanov’s parlance, by the verbal environment in which they are set. To apply his own metaphor they are chameleons with the ability to adopt the prevailing colour of their surroundings. So regarded, a word is not a lexical term that recurs with greater or less frequency. It is rather a singular and unique occurrence of a word defined by its position in a text though its innate semantic value is never quite eradicated. The distinction between the lexical word and a singular verbal occurrence may become clearer in the light of an example drawn from Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar. The word “honourable”, repeated several times in Mark Antony’s oration at the funeral of Julius Caesar, has a fixed meaning according to its definition in a dictionary but within the scope of Mark Antony’s oration it comes to signify the very opposite of all that “honourable” is supposed to mean. The context of each occurrence of this word is different from that of the previous occurrence of “honourable” because the addition of every sentence exercises a cumulative effect that increases the complexity and density of all words and associations in the text so far ingested..




A MUSICAL ANALOGY OR "THE POEM AS OBJECT"



Tynjanov’s emphasis on the unique “coloration” of word occurrences in literature finds an odd parallel in theories that deny the essential logocentricity of literature and poetry but rather stress the singular “objective” and intrinsic nature of a poem or literary work. Such theories are predicated on the axiom that a poem is an “object” and as such poses the equivalent in words of a picture, sculpture or in the case of Calvin S. Brown, instrumental music..

In "The Musical Development of Symbols: Whitman", a chapter in his book Music and Literature, Athens [U.S.],1948),Calvin S. Brown has proposed that words in Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd", far from being concerned with realities in world outside the poem, serve only to produce symbols and these in turn, by repetition in ever new combinations create "musical" motifs. Like the leitmotif that pervades a great symphony, the “symbols” in question undergo a process of ever increasing enhancement, development and enrichment. Thus references to Lincoln should only be considered as a means of developing a certain motif, identified here as the idea of a great man”, for, aesthetically speaking, they have nothing to do with the author’s passionate feelings towards President Lincoln!

Other conclusions drawn by proponents of the idea of that a work of literature constitutes a unique “object” will strike many a person who is not au fait with current literary theories as odd, if not altogether contrary to the pleading of common sense. This is largely because they see the in uniqueness and aesthetic value of the work a hindrance to perceiving common ground shared by this work and other works, even those written by the same author (as this author’s mind can only be speculated about, being external to the text). Such critics also see the unique quality of a work as a reason for not forming generalizations about the work in the light of what is known about its author or the influence of literary tradition. Few "objective" critics confront the task of explaining how the aesthetic object transports itself into the subjective mind of a reader and yet remain “objective”. To avoid this problem the would-be objective theorist will have to ascribe to the recipient’s mind what Keats termed “negative capability” , a mental state of absolute passivity and impressionability.in which a reader supposedly interiorizes a poem or other artistic work. One may argue that, far from being passive, the reader is a co-creator of the poem if one admits that the text kindles the same fire that burned in the imagination of its originator. Keats’ works offer a good example revealing the nature of the process of assimilation by which the mind and imagination ingest and imaginatively recreate an objet d’art, for in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” the perception of a motionless object activates the power of the mind to express itself in the dynamic flow of thought and language. While the attributes of the static object coexist simultaneously (and cannot be grasped mentally at any instant in time), the mind activated by the sight and contemplation of this object produces a process that must unfold and work itself sequentially. The lovers about to kiss and the procession are strangely suspended in some indeterminate zone between the frozen moment depicted on a surface of stone and the ongoing motion of life. The stasis of a lifeless object finds no correlative in the ceaseless dynamic of mental and imaginative creativity as captured in the poem.

If one is to draw a parallel between poetry and the creative process that engenders it in some fitting metaphor, that of a journey or walk deserves close consideration for , like writing or reading, a poem is a process with a beginning a course and an end. The psychological events that attend a journey or writing a poem are also remarkably similar as Keats noted when comparing his literary venture to an "uncertain path". during the composition of Endymion.

And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness -
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with glee.
Endymion 1, 58-61.

It is surely significant that so many poems, particularly in the Romantic period, depict a journey often ncluding the word "wanderer" or, as the case may be, a derivative of the verbs "wander" or "wandern". the word evokes the archetypal them of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, for Dante the most fundamental of all allegories.



For all their emphasis of the development of "motifs", "symbols" or "images" as elements the poetic work, the proponents of the objective criticism seem greatly restrained in their ability or willingness to note, as far as literature is concerned, any novelty or vigour derived from the life, experience and personal development of the authors of works under consideration or from the influence of dynamic changes in history. The Formalists firmly and persistently asserted that a work of literature is unique yet they found no reason to view the work in isolation from the mind of its author, an embracing literary tradition, the contemporary world, the developments of history and so on.



THE SYNCHRONIC AND DIACHRONIC AXES OF LANGUAGE

The Formalists could never accept an emasculation of poetry and poetic language that inevitably results from attempting to isolating them from “external” factors, however relevant they appear, but this is not only because they denied the possibility of finally severing the language of common life from that of literature. To this comes another consideration. Again we must turn to the theories of language established by one who perhaps more that any deserves recognition as the father of linguistics.

Ferdinand de Saussure discerned in language both a synchronic and a diachronic axis. Language is "synchronic" when considered in its contemporary, - from our point of view , its present state. The diachronic axis spans the passage of historical time in which a language has evolved. In their use of words authors, Tynjanov asserts, are aware of both aspects of language , noting both the current meaning of words and contrasting this with these words’ traditional meanings and implications.


A PERSONAL NOTE CONCERNING HOW I FOUND MY WAY TO A LOGOCENTRIC APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF LITERARY TEXTS

Many who love and appreciate poetry are sometimes put off by literary critics talking shop in what often comes over as jargon - to a coterie of specialists so familiar, to others just a brick wall. Perhaps a personal note may point to the reason for my advocacy of a logocentric approach. I go back many years now to a time when I became an avid reader of two poets whose works seem to have little in common, namely Dylan Thomas and Robert Browning. Though generally considered a difficult poet, even a wilfully obscure one, Dylan Thomas wrote a number of poems with a wide appeal, among them “Fern Hill.” This owes much of its popularity no doubt to Thomas’s skilful evocation of a lost innocent childhood replete with reminiscences of the days Dylan as a child spent in the Edenic setting of Fern Hill, a farm owned by an aunt. Though on first reading this poem I did not recognize this, I was eventually struck by lines in the work that I felt must be allusions to the pied Piper, a legendary figure known to many in the English-speaking world through their acquaintance with Robert Browning’s “”The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. Hence the linkage of Dylan Thomas and Robert Browning in my mind. A comparison and contrast of their poetry proved interesting with, on the one hand, the obscure agglomeration of words sometimes yielding no logical sense in such a poem as "Atarwise by Owl-Light" by the Welshman, and the lucid, easily read verses of the Englishman, on the other. Or was all this so straightforward and simple? Having confronted some of the complexities and ambiguities in Thomas’s poems, I sensed that under the smooth surface of a seemingly plain narrative, Browning’s poems harboured far from obvious meanings and allusions if only by the juxtaposition of words irrespective of the sense expected to conform to their immediate context. Deeper implications of words were suggested to my mind by deviations from what in prose whould constitute a good style. In this a repetition of the same word in the same sentence jars, but in Browning’s "By the Fire-Side" there is the line “we crossed the bridge we crossed before”. In The Pied Piper I read "He never can cross that mighty top." If such an expression were found a passage of prose, a one would probably question how one "can cross a mighty"top, though one might surmount or circumvent the daunting peak of a mountain. Could the word "cross" have possessed for Browning a transcendent significance irrespective of its immediate justification within a certain context? But what is a "context" , only the minimum basis for establishing which sense of a word according to a dictionary is the right one? I will not attempt to answer such questions now, though I take the opportunity to refer to articles in which I discuss them at some length.

My interest in the specifics that distinguish poetic language from the non-literary kind was reinvigorated by my studies in the field of German, and later English, poetry in the era of Goethe and the Romantics, particularly with regard to the word “Wanderer” (then sometimes written “Wandrer”) that figured so prominently in such works as “Der Wandrer”, “Wandrers Nachtlied”, or “Wandrers Sturmlied”. Closely associated with this phenomenon are the frequent and evocative uses of the verbs “wandern” or its English counterpart “to wander”, as in Wordsworth’s celebrated poem beginning “I wandered lonely as a cloud”. My interest became so great, in fact, that I undertook a dissertation on what I termed the “motif of ‘the wanderer’” within the Program of Comparative Literature at an American university. This activity finds its residue in a number of articles I have placed on the Internet, namely in those focusing on the significance, in poetry, of words based on the verbs "to wander" and "wandern". However, as I soon discovered to my cost, “wanderer” is a very difficult word to get a handle on, especially if it is credited to have the power to span two languages and their literatures. Its meanings are diffuse even in lexical terms, let alone in terms of their diverse evocations and associations throughout literature. On the one hand, the word "Wanderer" connotes a stock of allegorical figures and archetypes, usually of Biblical or classical origin, Cain, the wandering Israelites, the pilgrim and seeker after truth, and so on. On the other it implied principles of organization, particularly those ascribed to a divine influence such as the classical Muse or the Holy Spirit (which Milton conflated in the opening lines of Paradise Lost”) or, with the inception of modern secularism, with deep undercurrents in the mind, later identified as "the unconscious”. Byron condenses both fields of reference evoked by “to wander” in the lines found in Don Juan: -

My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning.

In separate contexts we may refer to a person wandering from the subject or to a person who wanders from the straight and narrow. Essentially Byron is using a pun, but not, as in the course of daily conversation, as if to make a joke, but rather he broaches a deep question about the nature of poetry, the source of poetic inspiration and the interaction of modernity and tradition. To grapple with the problems raised by my investigations, I needed a methodology that eventually did take shape but in a period of time that stretched beyond the deadline set by a dissertation committee. The approach eventually coalesced into an analysis set out in the essay entitled “Is the Word or the Image the Basic Entity in Poetry?" My approach is based to great extent on the theories of the Russian Formalists while also incorporating, perhaps surprisingly, elements of medieval biblical exegesis with its reference to four levels of interpretation. This very same tradition served Northrop Frye as a model on which to base his "Anatomy of Criticism", but in contradiction to his theory of myths, which I greatly value and even accept up to a certain point, I refuse any attempt to rinse out of literature the vitality and energy that arises from individual and historic experience. Some critics regard the allegory as "old hat", an obsolete vehicle of expression from a long-passed era.. However, in Western Wind John Frederick Nims notes a that allegories, far from being stilted anachronisms, spontaneously arise tregardless of an author's volition, for he states:
.
A mountain may be a symbol of salvation; a traveller may be a symbol of a human being in his life. But it the traveller takes as much as one step toward the mountain, it seems that the traveller and the mountain become allegorical figures, because a story has begun.

. We may extrapolate from the words I have just cited that the use of a verb of motion engages some faculty of the mind subject to the influence of an unconscious element of the mind.

Websites

My Personal Website - Literary Criticism, Essays on Historical Themes, Poetry, Fiction, Drama:

http://julian-scutts.de/

Please Note: Most articles here can be accessed from click addresses on the home page, but some cannot owing to temporary technical problems.In such cases normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.



These are provisionally supplied with headers or cues indicating subject matter. They are to be replaced by full commentaries in due course. When possible, please use the Print Version, click on right margin


The following list begins with sites containing articles on works by Robert Browning which aroused my interest in the way words in poetry convey more meanings than are immediately understood at the surface or literal level. "How they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix" is known to many schoolchildren as an exciting racy narrative expressing the verve and energy that could also characterize a running commentary at a horse race. Does it matter that we learning nothing about the contents of the "good news" that alone can save the city of Aix? Is it important to know that the route taken by the three horsemen was far from the most direct between the cities of Ghent and Aix? Does the story have any basis in historical fact?


Robert Browning; "How they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix" - "By the Fire-Side"

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/477/

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Cited on an official webside of the city of Ghent (in Dutch).

http://www.literair.gent.be/html/lexicondetail.asp?ID=5&AID=172
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When a boy, Robert Browning had a private tutor in voice training who was the same man that persuaded Byron to write The Hebrew Melodies. Is this significant?

http://julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=37

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The Motif of the Pied Pied in European Poetry, Wascana Review, University of Regina, Canada:


http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/~jonas/Scutts-article.html

This article in cited in Journal of Religion and Film, University of Nebraska at Omaha: http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/sweether.htm

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The principal sources of the Pied Piper legend and an interview (in German but with introductory orientation in English) with the curator of the museum in Coppenbrügge about the origins of the legend. He has interesting things to say about a reference to "Calvary" in the earliest known source of the legend. The previous article discussed words in "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" by Robert Browning that collectively suggest that the Pied Piper has an affinity with Christ, a view upheld by Iacov Levi, a well-known expert in the fields of psychology and literature.

http://julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=69&Itemid=2
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Words in Poetry from the Linguistic Perspective:

http://www.julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=43&Itemid=...

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/511/
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I am greatly indebted to the late Frantisek Galan for the grounding he gave me, when a graduate student at the university of Texas at Austin, in aspects of literary criticism with special reference to Northrop Frye, M. M. Bahktin and the Russian Formalists. The following study on the Grotesque in the works of Rabelais was written in the course of one of his seminars.

http://julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=24&Itemid=52

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"Spilt Theology" Controversy among Critics concerning "Wandering"

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/580/
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Dylan Thomas: "Altarwise by Owl-Light" How to make sense of it using a "logocentric analysis.

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/1193/
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Why is the line "to be or not to be" so well-known while other occurrences of "be" in the same work are not? Can a linguistic analysis help with finding an answer?

Shakespeare: Hamlet and the Verb "to Be"

http://julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=51

http://www.articlehub.com/Humanities/Metaphysical/Hamlet-To-Be-Or-To-Do.html


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Intertextuality II. Occurrences of "wandering" words in Shakespeare's works

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/497/
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Intertextuality II Occurrences of "wandering" words in works by Byron, Shelley and Milton:


http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/501/
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Between the Muse and the Unconscious:"Wanderer" and related words as a signal of a crisis in early modern poetry

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/638/
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Goethe's Development of the "Wanderer" Motif between 1771 and 1789 1770


http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/607/
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Goethe's "Wandrers Nachtlied" and Longfellow's translation of the two poems sharing this title:


http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/478/

http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=display&webtag=ab-poetry&tid=...

http://www.homehighlight.org/humanities-and-science/academics/goethe-s-wandrers-...

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William Blake: "London" and Wilhelm Müller's "Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust"Blake - the question of a poem's context(s).


http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/484/
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http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/570/
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Wordsworth: "I wandered lonely as a cloud" Fourfold approach to the significances of "wandering"


http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/587/

http://www.homehighlight.org/entertainment-and-recreation/wordsworth-s-daffodils...

http://www.articlehub.com/authors/Julian-Scutts.html

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Coleridge: "The Ancient Mariner" What Critics mean by "wandering"Ancient Mariner


http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/613/
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Other articles

Finally, articles which relate to various topics arising from work in seminars or otherwise

Did Godot turn up after all? A study involving a close inspection of what the verb "to wait" /"attendre".implies in the context of the play. To this extent it is logocentric.

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/548/

http://www.homehighlight.org/humanities-and-science/metaphysical/did-godot-turn-...

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Robert Lowell. "For the Union Dead"

http://www.literatureclassics.com/essays/530/

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George Eliot: Middlemarch" Union of myth and history

http://julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=75&Itemid=49

http://www.homehighlight.org/humanities-and-science/academics/myth-and-history-i...

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Somerset Maugham: Short Stories Maugham, a closet believer?

http://julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=73&Itemid=43

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I am a writer of poems, short stories and drama. Such items can be accessed on my site julian-scutts.de or elsewhere, for example at:




http://www.zentao7.com/Showcase/JulianScutts/index.html

http://www.castleofspirits.com/stories07/ifyoudare.html


poetry

http://poetry.about.com/library/bl0601ibpcentries.htm

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Is the video clip a genuine new art form?


This discussion concerns video clips found at: http://lesewelten.de
To see indivual clips: http://lesewelten.de/lweng.htm . They are referred to by number in the body of this discussion.


The clip resembles a film in communicating by combining visual and acoustical signals and it resembles a short piece of literature such as a poem, short story or song in terms of brevity.
Its immediate precursors âre probably the commercials on TV and short video productions conveying a popular song or piece of music. It might seem therefore to pose a manifestation of the superficiality and triviality often associated with modern pop culture.


The clip: the child of the Internet age. The adulteration - or democratic revitalization - of civilized culture?


Apart from having the characteristics of brevity and vitality, it shares with the commercial spot or short vaudeville performance on stage, the clip possesses features that it was not possible to find before the development of the Internet. These features are ubiquity and accessibility or, to coin a new term, recallability. The scene, song, story or buffoonery recorded on a clip would probably be relegated to oblivion in the course of a short time like so many incidents in daily life we consider to be ephemera. Probably the great majority of clips on the Internet will be relegated to oblivion too, if only because the Internet is being swamped by clips and these can now be produced by members of the general public without exceptional technical skills or financial backing. Of course, clips are for this reason a very democratic and liberating form of expression. The young and people belonging to ethnic or cultural minorities are apparently those most ready to avail themselves of clip facilities.


Potentially at least, a clip is capable to achieving the durability and time-defying quality of a great poem if it possesses a comparable intrinsic value, but that is a big if. The question then is whether it can.


Ask questions later. Brainstorming means experimentation now!


In collaboration with the film producer Christoph Felder I hope to explore the potential of the clip by a process that can be cautiously termed spontaneous experimentation. In a series of clips we are trying to exploit the affinities between the clip in a generic sense and established genres such as poetry, the popular lyric and short drama, albeit with a slapstick touch now and again.


Clips a vehicle for poetry ?


Can clips serve as vehicles for poems? Why not? The poems presented on the clips produced by Christoph Felder in the present series fit into the category of performance poetry and dramatic monologues. The delivery of a verbal message can be reinforced, interpreted and ironized by bodily gestures, facial expressions , some bordering on contortions, and various sound effects.


A common thread discernable in the clips presented?


Though the poems chosen do not share any obviously common theme, but do they share anything apart from their – to coin another term – performability?
One clip (No. 8) directly concerns the nature of poetry as the speaker, his face covered by a veil, ruminates about the nature of poets and tends to the view that poetry is a universal concomitant of life rather than an ethereal and elitist pastime. Perhaps this poem makes explicit what some other clips only imply. the speaker's unveiled other self mocks him for his supposedly pretentious reference to the Poet in the Sky. Undeterred, the speaker ends his irregularly rhyming poem with a quotation from the Gospel of John. In the beginning was the Word. Does this poem point to the underlying seriousness to be uncovered? In my mind this poem, which was written in the late seventies and was once presented on stage, had a prophetic aspect, as years later I would apply myself to a “logo-centric“ (word-centred) study of poems and literary texts. The other clips were not necessarily about poetry or art:

In another clip (No. 1) a gentleman who has known better days ponders the meaning of a vision of unidentified flying objects shortly before being committed to a medical department for the mentally confused. In another (No. 7) a young rat, somewhat incongruously speaking with a Cockney accent, tries to persuade the Pied Piper to desist from playing his pipe. In another (No. 5) dramatic monologue a friendly neighbourhood guru vaunts his ability to liberate people from materialism by relieving them of their possessions. In another (No. 6) a person who was about to be buried at his funeral reports how he self-consciously and almost apologetically drew the funeral attendees’ attention to the overlooked fact that he was not yet dead. Perhaps the common theme is the power of the life force to assert itself, no matter the odds stacked against it, and art is the quintessial expression of this force, not least because it finds a level at which even time and death or any other agent of suppression can be thwarted.




Focus on marginalized groups. Laying on the gloom and doom?


Did I inadvertently choose poems presenting the point of view of those marginalized and rejected by mainstream forces? Is the tone unduly pessimistic in view of the sad fate to which Humdumpty (se No. 9), his wife, the drowning rat (see No. 7), the over-amorous motorcyclist (see No. 11) and the bewildered husband committed to a mental institution (No 1) succumb? If so, is this due to my own lugubrious outlook or an awareness of the dangers and menaces that confrom modern humanity? Let others decide if they must in due course. Whatever one concludes, all expressions of an individual reflect a unity informing what Jung and Freud termed the Unconscious.
I now consider the heterogeneous make up of the clips a little more closely.




A critique of soulless technology today?


There are two narrative poems, one(No. 9) telling the stories of an obsessed scientist who destroys the object of his deepest love, his own wife, in pursuit of 'objective truth', the other (No. 11) of a motorized Casanova riding hell for leather to keep his rendezvous with D. Both Humdumpty and Harry Newhouse both ruthlessly apply their rigorous processing systems in a manner that finds obvious parallels in the modern industrial society.




The place of religion in today's world


Two clips (No. 3 & No. 4) form a unity based on the religious theme of repentance and prophetic wrath, though only the second clip conveys a poem replete with rhymes and an element of sententiousness. Again the role of religion in the modern world is up for discussion.




Self-reflection on the use of the Internet


One clip (No. 10) presents a short story recounted by a participant in the narrated action. This tells of a man whose obsession with the paranormal and computer technology lead to his mysterious disappearance. This clip poses an example of artistic self-refection, since the video clip is a facet of the world wide web. One might understand the story as a satire, for the obsessed stockbroker cocoons himself in his PC study and loses contacts with his family and social environment.




A worldwide system of addressing individuals everywhere but without an audience


The clip presents a strange paradox. It can reach countless numbers of individual around the world but never an audience offering immediate responses to the actor or speaker on a clip. Therefore the actor or speaker remains sober almost aloof, which may have advantages. The clip performer like a novelist must anticipate his public without being rewarded by a cheer or round of applause. The clip-performer knows that the great majority of the public are young people, which tends to have a rejuvenating influence on this person. My own experience confirms this feeling.




A Rejuvenating Influence?


As a pensioner I see much of my earlier work in retrospect yet feel that clip production does not result in a mere repetition of the past. A new vital element seeps in. One clip presents the viewpoint of a retired teacher such as myself and, however cursorily, broaches a relevant question when asking why a well known rock music performer has earned a vast fortune by breaking the rules of grammar while he has earned only a modest income teaching correct grammar. This prompts a wider issue. How does pop culture relate to the old culture of academic learning? That is why the title Stories of Today is uncannily apt. Clip art itself cannot be categorized in terms of any conventional genre.




Unity and cohesion. Where?


One might suspect this clip has a strong autobiographic connotation. This introduces the question of the unity that these clips evince. What unity? The clips were not chosen in accordance with a clearly defined plan or programme in mind. here we might consider the name brainstorm. Brainstorming is a technique sometimes used at seminars and even learned conferences to launch straight into the subject at hand. Participants write sentences or just single words on cards and these are then attached to a board and sorted out in meaningful sets.


The Unity orchestrated by subconscious influences and life's experiences


Order emerges from spontaneous ideas, i.e. in retrospect or through a process like psycho-analysis.The unity is discovered post factum. Does this mean the composition is arbitrary? I believe not, as each is in some way representative of some central aspect of my psychological development through the various stages and scenes of life. Take the rat clip (No. 7). The subject of the Pied Piper has fascinated me for many years and produced a body of articles and reports on the subject.


Unity of Form conditioned by the clip as artistic genre


The nature of the clip genre and its sociological environment acts as a filter. Only one clip is serious and straight without irony and a humorous overlay. It is the exception that proves the world. The clip is supposed to entertain, though often raising sharp critiques of contemporary society.
The brevity also forms content or favours the choice of works that make a point clearly and immediately like the pen strokes composing a cartoon. Like a cartoon it makes a strong impact on the visual sense. It has the added advantage of movement shared with the theatre or film. It uses ordinary objects as props or, continuing a tradition established by the saucepan lid in Baudelaire's poetry, imbues common objects with universal symbolism. Props that were effective were a veil, a football, a panel of frosted glass, a blade, and so on.


The choice of these objects fell to Christoph, the experienced filmmaker conscious of filmic techniques that are essentially the same as those employed by artists in drama, painting and other arts. In the case of the video clips we present no great effort is made to create theatrical illusion for there is no use made of conventional decor, backdrops, wings any more that in Shakespeare’s globe or Brecht’s epic dramas revealing the technique of alienation effects shattering illusion.


Story's of Today: Relevance


If there is unity it was not the result of a tidy plan or scheme. I did not include any love poetry of a deeply personal nature or, with one possible exception, a poem with a straight and serious theme. The genre , I think acted as a filter in this regard. The clip is the vehicle suited to present readily intelligible and entertaining verse often with a strong satirical and ironic quality. It is suitable for narrative poetry. Let us not forget the title of the series – stories of today. The clip demands economy and concision simply because of its shortness, hence the effectiveness of visible objects to which the context supplied by the clip lends a symbolic dimension even in the focus on a toy football, a veil, a children’s pipe, a silver blade, a motorcyclist’s helmet.
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A personal note.
For reasons already intimated the clips mean to me a kind of cryptic and potted autobiography. Perhaps here lies a key to discovering their unity, a unity fashioned also by the interaction of the medium used, the video clip and the Internet, and the astute application of filmic and artistic techniques on the part of the producer. The answer to the question posed by the title is, I believe, YES.


PORTFOLIO
Portfolio -> The Language of Poetry, and vice versa
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