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My Wandering Quest to Discover the Nature of "the Word" as a Literary Phenomenon Foreword to a Collection of Literary Articles with video

clips Leon Trotsky: "The Formalists show a fast-ripening religiousness. They are followers of Saint 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 (the original Russian text of) Literature and Revolution, 1924):Literature and Revolution, tr. Rose Strumsky, Ann Arbor, 1960). Just recently I bought a book written by one Rabbi David A: Cooper with the title of God is a Verb - Kabbalah and the practice of mystical Judaism. I have yet to read the book and therefore cannot establish the reasons that justify the bold statement that God is a Verb. This assertion has brought to mind the Latin version of St John's famous declaration that "In the beginning was the Word" (In Principio erat Verbum) and this in connection with the opening scene in Goethe's Faust Part I, in which Faust ponders how to translate the Greek "logos" into German. He was dissatisfied with "Wort" (Word) as being too sterile and bookish, and in a flash fastened on the word "Tat" (Deed). The possibility of translating "logos" by "Verb" offers an elegant solution to the task of reconciling the Word with the Deed. Faust's choice of the word "deed" as the most apt translation of "logos" received an unlikely endorsement in an accusation that Leon Trotsky once leveled against a group of scholars known as the Russian Formalists, three of whose most noted exponents were Boris Eichenbaum, Roman Jakobson and Jurij Tynjanov (See the above quotation). Trotsky shrewdly recognized that the Russian Formalists adopted a logocentric (word-based) method in the pursuit of their work. The justification for a logocentric approach is nowhere more clearly presented than in J. Tynjanov's essay: "The Meaning of the Word in Verse." (1) It enabled me to articulate and crystallize ideas that I had earlier been unable to formulate when grappling with the nature of poetic "wandering." The Russian Formalists took as their intellectual foundation Ferdinand de Saussure's distinction between two facets of language. langue and parole, between language as a system incorporating, on the one side, the laws of grammar and the compilation of words found in a dictionary and, on the other, language as encountered in specific verbal utterances and texts. Language encompasses the universal and the specific, the general and the unique. Poetic and "ordinary" language are not different in quality or substance and poetry can never lose relevance to the issues which concern all humanity. The critic can view each poem as a unique construct or "object" without denying its part in the concert of poetry and life. The school of "objective" criticism, following Ezra Pound and the Imagistes, subordinates words to the role of supplying the basic fodder for "images," "symbols" or quasi-musical motifs, the real stuff of poetry apparently, which supposedly serve aesthetic needs but no others, not even the need of poets to express their private feelings or make statements about real issues such as those of a political or religious kind. Some critics try to cast the poem-object as some self-sufficient absolute with no debt to anything external, including the past; thus they celebrate the unique quality of some poem of their choice to the detriment of any value they concede to other works written before or after. Harold Bloom vaunts the poetry of Wordsworth and Blake as the consummation of all poetic expression and effectively the end of poetry. (2) Viewed in the light of Tynjanov's theory, a poet is aware that language is in a constant state of flux and development having evolved in the past on the diachronic plane before reaching what is for that poet its present or contemporaneous state on the synchronic plane (to use terms originally attributable to Ferdinand de Saussure). The word

in poetry reflects therefore a constant renovation of tradition, but never some final state of entropy bringing with it the death of poetry. If, indeed, God is a verb, then among those verbs most closely associate with the Divine being and modus operandi - to be, to create, to speak, to love - then to wander deserves its rightful place. Poets, as "makers" according to the Greek original sense of the word "poet" and as those who speak and write, will also wander as a matter of course. The "Wanderer" suddenly came into prominence in Goethe's first literary outburst from 1770 until 1775 while preserving its evocations of archetypal figures such as Cain drawn from the thesaurus of religious and mythical tradition. Those seeking to understand "wandering" will need more than a dictionary or treatise on literary criticism as their guide. They must wander sympathetically themselves in mind and body. Indeed, only by doing so myself did I work my way to a recognition that only a logocentric mode of textual study could get to grips with all the issues and questions thrown up by the sudden emergence of the "Wanderer" as a leitmotif at a decisive juncture in the history of European literature. As much as the wanderer and wandering intrigue the imagination of poets, these expressions pose to the literary critic a stumbling block and source of discomforting irritation, even if critics themselves cannot help referring to so nebulous and indefinable word as "Wanderer" in the course of their critical expositions. It was possibly with this paradox in mind that Lord Byron wrote the lines in the first canto of Don Juan: My way is to begin with the beginning;/ The regularity of my design /Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning. Here the poet plays off one sense of to wander against another, for "wandering" may denote a deviation from an orderly presentation of subject matter or from the path of moral rectitude. How well we know that teachers and tutors accuse students of rambling, but I have yet to meet one who condemned a poorly organized term paper as an act of gross moral turpitude, though some I have met who were prone to being unduly irascible on occasions. True, articles and scholarly works marshal facts and arguments with great precision as though they should convey truths that have come straight down from heaven on golden plates. However, many of the greatest discoveries in history came about by seeming chance or on the basis of a quest predicated on some false premise. Here we remember the discovery of America or the beneficial effects of penicillin. Some scholars might admit that some of their greatest insights were prompted by chance coincidences and the process of trial and error - one might say, from "wandering," but a good number of them hide all traces of such adventitious events as best they can.(See video: ). How then did I arrive at the logocentric approach outlined above? To explain this I have to say something about the course of my life. Back in the seventies I was teaching English at a German school and my wife Susan was a student of English at the University of Cologne. In fact I registered as a student myself and pursued a Masters degree in History. My wife and I used to discuss matters of literary interest relevant to her studies and Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill" at one point engaged our interest. We noted that this poem contained an unmistakable allusion to the Pied Piper of Hamelin ( ). Our attention then turned to Browning's "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." A little delving into secondary literature showed that Barbara Melchiori,

a noted scholar and literary critic, wrote in her monograph Browning's Poetry of Reticence (1968)that Robert Browning, wishing to shield himself from the prying eyes of inquisitive readers of his verse, avoided direct statements about his personal thoughts, opinions and feelings. He did so by writing verses about characters and situations that shed no light on his own life and personal situation. Only a scrutiny of certain key words or "verbal clues" nestling in his poetry betrayed where his true inclinations lay. One may deliberately decide on the nature subject but no one is in sufficient control of the mind's unconscious influences to bring the choice of individual words and their juxtaposition with other words under complete control. Having taken a leaf from Barbara Melchiori's book, I noted that in "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" certain clusters of particular words implied references and allusions to matters about which the official narrative of story of the piper was silent. The word cluster I had in mind consists of the word "cross," "passion," "rise" and "promised" closely followed by "land." This amounted to an evocation of the story of the death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On closer scrutiny, this conclusion could be supported by a number of explicit references to biblical themes such as one pointing to the inability of the rich to pass through the eye of a needle, "the trump of death's tone" and even "pottage, "which the noted critic Milton Millhouser understood as an allusion to the pottage served by Jacob to Esau which caused the latter to give up his birthright, sacrificing a spiritual good for the immediate gratification of a physical need. Might even the line "What's dead can't come to life I think" pose a cryptic reference to the theme of the resurrection of the dead? (See videos:(1) (2) ).I duly inquired whether such a cryptic use of verbal symbols might be found elsewhere in Browning's poetry. I discovered that the route taken by the three horsemen in "How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix" was far from direct, which seemed strange in view of the pressing need to convey an urgent message to the people of Aix (Aachen). The path ridden in fact answered the poet's need to make references to astral phenomena, themselves potent symbols, during the development of the narration. Again individual words imply a reference to religious themes though the immediate sense of these words according to their surface context overlay their deeper implications. Such words are "saved," "good news," "blood" and "wine." It is strange that the nature of the pressing Good News is not revealed. If one recognizes that world clusters convey a hidden message one is not far from discovering for oneself Dante's mode of interpreting the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and, by extension, of all literary representations of journeys on the basis of differentiating between the literary and allegorical levels of meaning. My interest in the legend of the Pied Piper had another interesting side-effect which had me scrambling on the rocky heights of an elevation near Hamelin on a quest to discover the true origin of the legend of the Pied Piper, but that's another story. I have yet to explain my years-long concern with "wandering. "In 1964 I was awarded my bachelor's degree in German at University College London after four years of study. During this time I enjoyed the privilege of learning at the feet, not literally of course, of Professor Elizabeth Wilkinson, who inculcated in my mind a deep reverence for Goethe's literary works. In the first trimester my fellow students and I were introduced to one of the greatest poetic achievements in the German language, Goethe's "Wandrers Nachtlied," which in its final state incorporated two short poems that the author composed in 1776 and 1780 respectively. ( See video: . A long time elapsed before I again took a

close interest in this work. After the passage of 24 years I had the occasion to study Goethe's lyrical poetry under the guidance and tutelage of the noted scholar, poet and translator, Christopher Middleton, at the University of Texas at Austin. I wrote a term paper on "Wandrers Sturmlied" and the motif of wandering in Goethe's poetry. Thus it was that I had to grapple with the "Wanderer" phenomenon in Goethe's literary works and later with the same motif in Romantic poetry. I soon found that this field of study presented an immense challenge. How could "wandering" be defined in terms of crisply circumscribed subject matter? The word evoked many apparently contradictory associations with wandering minstrels and pilgrims on the one hand, and on the other, with wandering outcasts such as Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew, and Cain. Apart from items of subject matter, it also suggested modes of organizing and molding subject matter. Lord Byron touched on this duality in lines in Don Juan cited above. Don Juan is himself a wandering sinner and, as Byron's allusions to Adam as portrayed by Milton in Paradise Lost indicate, he searches in vain for a lost paradise. In spite of such difficulties the word "wanderer" together with all forms derived from the verbs "wandern" and "to wander" cried out for attention on account of its dominant position as a title or theme in the poetry, and perhaps less obviously, in the prose works, written by Goethe and the Romantics. Furthermore, modern scholars and literary critics such as Geoffrey Hartman and Harold Bloom give great prominence to the word "wanderer" in their essays and articles referring the word to the phenomenon of the emergence of the modern self-conscious poet in the Romantic period. I found myself ill-equipped to manage the task of integrating textual criticism of the primary sources with the findings of literary criticism. The diffuse and in some ways intractable nature of "all wandering" as a field of investigation led me into great difficulty when I chose the Wanderer in the poetry of Goethe and the Romantics as the subject of my proposed doctoral dissertation. One of the members of my dissertation committee dismissed the term as a mere "conceit" or artificial prop for poetic expression, but well I knew what anguish and agonizing had attended Goethe's wrestling with the nexus of thoughts and emotions bound up with the word "wandern" in his "Speech on Shakespeare Day," "Wandrers Sturmlied" and Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther). I recalled the bitterness and acrimony occasioned by the differing understanding of "the Wanderer," the modern poet, that alienated Goethe from the Romantics. If, in the course of time, the Wanderer came to assume the role of a conventional tag in the minds of certain scholars and critics, there is still no reason to try to retroactively impose a modern mindset on the poets of an earlier age, wishing to mutilate their poetic feet in an attempt to make them fit into the glass slipper cobbled by a modern fashion in the contentious area of literary criticism. The influential school of "objective" criticism marks a reaction against Romantic poetry, which makes it difficult for adherents of that school to empathize with the Romantics and exercise a little historical imagination in the process, if only to better understand the nature of Romantic poetry. Many modern scholars seem to know better than the poets who wrote the works they study to their material and financial benefit. I have found that particular popular and much quoted verses earn these scholars benign neglect at best. A member of my committee objected to my opinion that the daffodils in "I wandered lonely as a cloud" tapped folkloric associations of this flower with Easter, citing the term "Osterglocken" (Easter bells) as a common term for daffodils in the German-speaking world. This connection was "trivial" to the mind of the learned gentleman in question. Housman, a mere poet, wrote his poem "The Lent Lily" with the religious significance of daffodils in mind and Frederick Pottle, a noted scholar, made much of the comparatively

tenuous association between daffodils and the figure of Narcissus in Greek mythology.( See video: ) To cut a long story short, I did not complete my dissertation. No doubt, this was in part due to my own deficiencies at the time, in part to the wall of prejudice intimated above and, not least, to the need to move on a make money. However, I doggedly pursued my personal researches into "Wandering," convinced of the essential correctness of my basic thesis, and eventually found in the theories of the Russian Formalists, combined with Dante's mode of interpreting literary references to journeys, a resolution of the problems that had hampered my work on the subject of the Wanderer as a key word and leitmotif in the poetry of Goethe and the Romantics. .I remember with great respect the late Professor Ralph Read in the Department of German, who brilliantly conducted tutorials though he was blind. A similar respect I feel for the late Dr. Frantisek Galan whose lectures on literary theory furthered my grounding in a logocentric approach to the study of literary texts. He died of leukemia a couple of years after being denied tenure at UT Austin, unjustly in his opinion, and not only in his. I recall with gratitude the help I received from Professor Jerome Bump (English) which led to the publication of my article ³The Pied Piper of Hamelin in European Literature´ in Wascana Review . University of Regina, Canada.( ) The essays that follow are partly derived from my research into wandering but once I had established a logocentric approach to interpreting literary texts, the scope of my concern widened so as to include an essay on the significance of the words "to be or not to be" in Hamlet and another on making sense of Dylan Thomas's willfully obscure "Altarwise by Owl-Light." With essays on Robert Browning's poetry I return to the origin of quest to understand more about the Word as a literary phenomenon. Notes 1) Jurij Tynjanov, "The Meaning of the Word in Verse," in: {i}Readings in Russian Poetics / Formalist and Structuralist Views{/i}, ed. by Ladislav Mateijka and Krystina Pomorska (Michigan Slavic Publications, Ann Arbor, 1978), pp. 136-145.2) 2) Harold Bloom, "The Internalization of Quest-Romance" in {i}The Yale Review, Vol. LVIII, No.4 (Summer, 1969). Later in: Romanticism and Consciousness / Essays in Criticism (New York,1970. Harold Bloom calls the phase of development preceding full internalization the "Promethean" stage of Romanticism when the poets identified themselves as poets with an immature aspect of their personalities incorporating a rebellious attitude to social injustice and repression Full internalization was achieved by Wordsworth and Blake when the catharsis that attended their strivings in poetry afforded a clear perception of the false selfhood in all that prevented or delayed a perfect state of harmony in all the mind's questing and emotional energies; this Bloom likens to Freud's picture of a "marriage" of the libido and the object of its love. Articles on the Internet Back to the Logos option=com_content&task=view&id=43&It... I and Thou / Goethe and Buber

Wandering and Spilled Theology The Poetic Wanderer's Pilgrimage through Words Preamble to Wandering Interpreting a Poem, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," by a Poem: For Further Delectation or Elucidation: The Pied Piper in a Professorial Den Monopoly and the Academic Blues Poetry Reading at the Cactus Café on the UT Austin Campus: Jupiter Returns. Shakespeare Was No Don: Confessions of Professor Nutall-Casey Der Rattenfänger von Coppenbrügge (in German):