Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I just added Laura Carter's new blog to the blogroll, but I'm leaving her old blog up for now 'cause there's good stuff on there. At the very least I hope to see more of "Redemption Songs" when she gets around to them.

Back in dissertation land after more than a week's absence. By this point I think I've thought my way around and in and through what I want to say about pastoral pretty thoroughly, so that I can more or less jump in anywhere and start writing about it and its manifestations. The first chapter is shaping up to start with a discussion of Pound's book Lustra, which is more or less evenly divided between classic Imagist poems like "In a Station of the Metro and sardonic jeremiads against the literary establishment and women who have rejected him. I'm using this odd conjunction to show how certain pastoral values such as the oxymoronic combination of ascetism and sensuality came to characterize those aspects of the Imagist project that endured for Pound after "Amygism." For me, Imagism constitutes a kind of pastoral phenomenology positing an immediate connection between nature and the poet's perceptions-in-language, which in Lustra are personified as swains and shepherds (Pound is forever writing apostrophes to "my songs"). Of course Pound renounced Imagism, but I want to argue that its persistence in the Pisan Cantos is what subverts his fascism and makes the entire project bearable, not least to the "man on whom the sun has gone down" himself. From there it should be relatively easy to trace other permutations of pastoral (which at the end of the day is always an image or literary effect and not a real place or condition) through the fall-outs of twentieth-century experimental writing. That's the idea, anyway.

It's a burden and a nuisance but writing a dissertation is also hugely enjoyable. Like almost anything else, it becomes burdensome when you reify it into an object that you and others come to expect something from; but as a process with (as yet) no firm deadline it's an adventure in and through reading: it reads you. I would always like to have comparable intellectual projects to go along with the more intuitive groping that comes with writing poems. But I'm not so excited about the whole publish-or-perish thing.

Onward, onward, ever deeper into Tuesday.

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