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Showing posts from June, 2013

A Frugality with Gestures of Care: Giorgelli's 'Las Acacias'

Two caveats. Firstly, I've stolen the title of this blog. It's a phrase from one of my favourite articles on Wordsworth, by Francis O'Gorman, and it kept echoing through my head as I watched this film. Secondly, I am not a film scholar, and have never been trained in its languages and methodologies, but with all the blinkered grace of someone who has read too much hubristic French philosophy and thinks he can comment on anything and everything, I'll rush in anyway.

Las Acacias is a well-regarded Argentinean film from 2011, by director Pablo Giorgelli. Its plot is spare: Rubén, a truck driver running lumber from the forests of Paraguay to Buenos Aires, agrees to carry a young woman, Jacinta, and her baby as passengers. She is seeking work, and her mother works for his boss. And that is about it. There are only really two (three, if you count the child) characters and what happens is minimal: they cross the border, they stop when they are tired, Rubén drops off a DVD play…

40 Monograph Challenge #12: Necromanticism

Title: Paul Westover, Necromanticism: Travelling to the Meet the Dead, 1750-1860 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

Methodology: historicist, interdisciplinary, cultural history
Critical Context: critics who study the formation of canon and literary tradition (Harold Bloom, Andrew Bennett), studies of death and dying (e.g. Esther Schor), studies of Romantic era travel/tourism (e.g. Nicola Watson)
Thesis: In the Romantic era, a phenomenon of 'literary pilgrimage' to the sites of dead authors (especially graves) emerged, grounding experiences of reading, tradition and literary identity in a material practice of travel.

In a Nutshell: The keynote here is a systematic evocation by Westover of 'ideal presence' (taken from the eighteenth-century Scottish thinker Lord Kames) - an empiricist theory which explores the way that ideas raised purely through the imagination can strike the mind with the force of real impressions. As is stated relatively early, 'literary pilgrim…

Affect, Enfolding, Resonance

These thoughts were inspired in a twofold way: firstly, by a conference in Oxford and some reflections I had on Keats, and, secondly, by the broader question of the impersonality of affect (which I've recently been discussing with someone formidably intelligent). They also play off my reading of Deleuze's A Thousand Plateaus, particularly the concept of becoming-imperceptible, although I haven't finished that chapter so its presence is only provisional.

Keats's poetics are often privileged precisely because they are kenotic, because they aspire to empty out the self and flow towards another: 'a Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity - he is continually in for - and filling some other Body'.* Yet if Keats recurrently obsesses about the dissolution of boundaries, and the reversal of the inside and outside, it seems to me that this experience has maybe two sides. Again and again, perhaps most famously in 'Ode to a Nig…

Oxford Notes and Thoughts

Recently attended the excellent Romantic Medium one-day conference which was held at Somerville College, Oxford. Apart from the joy of returning to some of my old haunts (Somerville not being one of them: I couldn't find my way in at first!), the conference was excellent, with two notable plenaries in the shape of Stephen Gill and Michael O'Neill. Just a couple of thoughts.

1. Maturation Narratives. Stephen Gill's plenary began by suggesting that he was not going to treat the early draft of the 'Intimations Ode' as an incomplete text - not merely as the origin of the late masterpiece, or the question which is later answered in the full Ode - but as a separate poem.

Nevertheless, even whilst holding on to the idea that the early and late texts were formally distinct, a certain kind of narrative spanned them. Supposedly motivated by Wordsworth's experience of fatherhood, and a constellation of anxieties around growth, death and responsibility, Gill read the figur…

40 Monograph Challenge #11 - Unfettering Poetry

About a month behind on this (!) but I have just been reviewing a 750 page Oxford Handbook (to Percy Bysshe Shelley) which surely counts for something! Still hopeful I can make it to 35 by the end of the year.In better news, I really liked this monograph (I've read some of Robinson's stuff before, and used it when writing about Felicia Hemans) and I think it opens up a lot of new avenues.

Title: Jeffrey C. Robinson, Unfettering Poetry: The Fancy in British Romanticism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)

Methodology: Quite formalist, although definitely attuned to history and (especially) canon revision. The presence of Deleuze is light but unmistakeable.
Critical Context: In terms of what Robinson is against, a long tradition centring on the 'Greater Romantic Lyric' which runs from M.H. Abrams and Harold Bloom right through New Historicism. Likes critics who 'open' Romanticism (Jonathan Mee, William Keach, Paul Hamilton) and the erotic readings of Jerome McGan…