Author: L. Swilley (---.houston.res.rr.com)
Date: 04-18-05 10:50
> My friend "gidouille" read the discussion here and has this
> to say. I wonder what your views are on g's take and on
> Queneau and Pataphysics.
> Swilley's concerns and the questions he asks strike me as
> silly. I have real problems with imposing formalist
> structural models on writing. It's a bit like using an anvil
> to crush an ant. It's been decades since I read The Hobbit or
> LoTR and can't really defend them, but I think critiques such
> as his are pointless at best.
In my defense - if that is needed - I must confess that I do not pretend to be an *absolute* formalist; my formalism is complete in that it simply maintains that there is a discoverable (but perhaps not by me) consistency and order in everything. This discovered order and consistency is not objective, in the sense that there is but one valid estimate of them; as I have tried to make clear, there can be as many "interpretations" of that order and consistency as there are minds to conceive them, each wants only a fair parallel in the interpretative order to those points and developments of them that appear in the material considered. That literature and music and film are *discursive* forms, and that whatever follows the first in them should pertain to that first as modified by the previous growing calculus of "facts" in the unfolding - this I take to be as incontrovertible as that "a thing can be and not be at the same time in the same way."
Beyond this, I maintain that the quality of any work is further defined by the nobility of its subject, that nobility established by a philosophical estimate of subject of the work - poorly or perfectly rendered - and that philosophy, in turn, providing a estimate of what it is to be a human being. Leigh Hunt's "Jenny Kissed Me," is wonderfully made, but it hardly has the significant philosophical moment of Shakespeare's "Sonnet 73"; the straight pin is a miracle of perfect form, but it's content is as nothing relative to that of Brancusi's "The Kiss." (But, strictly speaking, this is beyond the concern of form, which simply defines what is "said" and "how" it is stated.)
All literary works of any philosophical value whatever can properly be the subject of formal analysis and it was with the hope that "The Hobbit" might have some significance of content as well as of form that I missed in a hasty reading - it was with such hope that I introduced that subject for consideration in the first place..
I would appreciate it if gidouille would precise how the critical princples I have given above should be considered "silly". (On the other hand, if he is speaking of the formal consideration of "The Hobbit" as "the use of an anvil to destroy an ant," I am inclined to agree with him, but only after the fact of a fair consideration; my original formal investigation began with the hope that there was something in that novel that established both a true quality of form and a significance of content to which I had been blind. I must not mark the novel as an iniquity before I give it a chance to be seriously examined.)