Hugh Kenner’s Unrealized Anthology

9781619022287_FC

From Questioning Minds: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner, edited by Edward M. Burns

Michael Dirda review in The Washington Post

Hugh Kenner was to edit a Wiley Anthology of 20th Century Literature. He asked Guy Davenport for suggestions.  Continue reading

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Reading The Cantos

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1948 New Directions Edition

READING THE CANTOS

I am not the only person in the United States reading The Cantos. I know because the internet tells me so. Another man is blogging The Cantos. He started in 2015—he’s up to LXVII, about fifty more to go. Elsewhere, The Cantos Project (“peer-reviewed by a board of scholars”), is seemingly the only active website dedicated to them, and has annotations up to XVI. I am neither impressed nor depressed by these on-line affairs. Nobody “likes” to read The Cantos and of the few called, many are passionate. The Cantos become an obsession because they are about large swathes of human history and its languages, subjects equally infinite. Guy Davenport avers, “I have seen students learn Chinese because of him, or take up mediaeval studies, learn Greek, Latin, music…” I expect others ardently caught up are similar to myself—undoubtedly most male, politically disenfranchised by both squirming sides, hunched over a haul of books, rueful at not being brought up in a French or Italian immersion school, and feeling fucked by standard stateside curriculum that left Latin in the dustbin. Continue reading

Object Fiction?

In “Collaborating with Surveillance: Wolfgang Hilbig’s East German Fiction” (see below), Angela Woodward highlights, among other things, Hilbig’s tendency in his fiction to privilege objects over persons:

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Hugh Kenner Hits a Home Run

Wouldn’t it take an outsider to aptly critique the American scene, the American people, the American culture? Hugh Kenner, a Canadian, did this at the end of a section devoted to Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams in his book A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers. A book dedicated to Guy Davenport. A book on Donald Barthelme’s syllabus.

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Guy Davenport on E. E. Cummings

I’m in the middle of reading Davenport’s Every Force Evolves a Form. And after being treated to his treatment of some of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s theories and then his robust survey of Rousseau’s paintings, I was thoroughly floored by “Transcendental Satyr,” his examination of E. E. Cummings’s poetry. He convincingly demonstrates that Cummings’s poems may have been influenced by Sappho’s fragments, the “frail scatter of lacunae, conjectures, brackets, and parentheses” of her translated and pieced together texts; that his “eccentric margins, capricious word divisions, vagrant punctuation, tmeses, and promiscuously embracing parentheses, can be traced to the scholarly trappings  which a Greek poem wears on a textbook poem.”

He also lists a number of Cummings’s “choice” influences:

[T]he Greek lyric, the comic strip Krazy Kat, Don Marquis, Pound’s array of resurrected Provencal, Italian, Greek, and even Chinese lyricists, some modern French poets (Apollinaire, Mallarme), and his temperamental disposition to love and hate the world (odi et amo ), the ambiguous and versatile stance of the satiric poet down through western tradition, from Archilochus through Catullus to Villon, and in folk tradition from Aesop to Joel Chandler Harris. Add one more element, and we have Cummings’ worktable before us. Add the mimiambus , or mime for a single actor taking various roles. This is the tradition in which Cummings did some of his finest work. In ‘ygUDuh / ydoan / yunnuhstan . . .’ he is miming a New Yorker at a bar giving his opinion of why the Second World War is being fought. . . . I would put this gift for mimicry as the bedrock of Cummings’s talent. When he strayed from it (into Swinburne and Rossetti), he was weak; when he exercised it with malicious wit, he was strong.”

Davenport is always a facile mind.