Objections arise to the concept of artistic intention based upon the psychology of a period. Here too we experience trends or volitions which can only be explained by precisely those artistic creations which in their own turn demand an explanation on the basis of these trends and volitions. Thus "Gothic" man or the "primitive" from whose alleged existence we wish to explain a particular artistic product is in truth the hypostatized impression which has been culled from the works of art themselves. Or it is a question of intentions and evaluations which have become conscious as they find their formulation in the contemporary theory of art or in contemporary art criticism. Thus these formulations, just like the individual theoretical statements of the artists themselves, can once more only be phenomena parallel to the artistic products of the epoch; they cannot already contain their interpretation. Here again this parallel phenomenon would, in its entirety, represent an extraordinarily interesting object of humanistic investigation, but it would be incapable of defining in detail a methodologically comprehensible volition. So, too, the view of art which accompanies a period's artistic output can express the artistic volition of the period in itself but cannot put a name to it for us. This view can be of eminent significance when we are seeking a logical explanation for the perception of tendencies dominating at a given time and thus also for the judgment of artistic volition at that time, which must also be interpreted.
Erwin Panofsky, the renowned art historian, was professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, until his death in 1968. Among his many books and articles are Meaning in the Visual Arts, Early Netherlandish Painting, and Renaissance and Renascenes in Western Art. Kenneth Northcott is professor of German and comparative literature at the University of Chicago and the translator of Arnold Hauser's Sociology of Art (forthcoming). Joel Snyder is chairman of the committee on general studies in the humanities at the University of Chicago.
What does "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" mean? This question, in one form or another, has been asked of the poem from the beginning; indeed, so interesting and so dominant has this question been that Coleridge's poem now serves as one of our culture's standard texts for introducing students to poetic interpretation. The question has been, and still is, an important one, and I shall try to present here yet another answer to it. My approach, however, will differ slightly from the traditional ones, for I do not believe that we can arrive at a synthetic answer until we reflect upon the meaning of the question itself. I will begin, therefore, by reconsidering briefly the history of the poem's criticism. . . . A poem like the "Rime" encourages, therefore, the most diverse readings and interpretations. Since this encouragement is made in terms of the Christian economy, the interpretations have generally remained within the broad spiritualist terms, "heathen" terms, in Newman's view, which Coleridge's mind had allowed for. The historical method of the "Rime," however, had also prepared the ground for a thoroughly revisionist view of the poem, in which the entire ideological structure of its symbolist procedures would finally be able to be seen in their special historical terms.
Speech, like sound, "exists only when it is passing out of existence."1 Although confounded with the very breath of life, speech dies on the lips that give it form. This undulation of air, whose speechprint is so personal that we have not been able to build machines to recognize it, is born in the body but effaces, forgets the body. This quality of speech, that it takes support form the body but does not reside there, has evoked a debate about the role of voice which was doubtless begun earlier but has never been so sharply discussed, I think, as in the present generation: Must voice and the concept of the speaking subject be defined as a unity? Can we validate a definition of the self and what it means to be human through a physiology of voice or a metaphysics of voice? The logical and chronological priority of empirical speech, of utterances seemingly unplanned and unwritten, is what is at issue in this debate.2
· 1. Walter J. Ong, "The Word in Chains," In the Human Grain(New York, 1967), p. 53.
· 2. Spontaneous utterances are the subject matter of speech-act philosophy and sociolinguistics, disciplines that stress the social and communicative context which helps condition personal speaking. Such a privileging of voice also occurs in modern poetic theory, for example in Charles Olson's "Projective Verse" and in statements by Gary Snyder, Jerome Rothenberg, and David Antin, but usually these writers show to what degree the oral must always remain a fiction in our era.
Donald Wesling is professor of English at the University of California, San Diego. The author of The Chances of Rhyme: Device and Modernity, he is currently writing a critique of modern metrical theory, The Scissors of Meter: Grammetrics and Interpretation.
Whitman was not one to be troubled about the solution of the problem of knowledge in particular, much less in general, nor for that matter was Emerson. Their way was to postulate solutions to problems just before they encountered them. My point, however, is that Whitman, with Emerson, did encounter a problem, the Diltheyan solution to which has tempted philosophers of history into our own time. If quoting Dilthey as a gloss on Emerson I would seem to want to involve Whitman in philosophical issues beyond his ken, then instead I would recall an earlier, quite fundamental statement of the mood, rather than one of the mode: "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." The King James version of these words from Revelations 3:16 is perhaps clarified in the Revised Standard version: "That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been , and God seeks what has been driven away."
Roy Harvey Pearce is a professor of American literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Savages of America: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind; The Continuity of American Poetry; and Historicism Once More: Problems and Occasions for the American Scholar.
Just consider, for sheer paranoia, the range of synonyms when the mask is ripped, the silence broken, the deferment brutally concluded: angel-face, arse-bandit, auntie, bent, bessie, bugger, bum-banger, bum boy, chicken, cocksucker, daisie, fag, faggot, fairy, flit, fruit, jasper, mincer; molly, nancy boy, nelly, pansy, patapoof, poofter, cream puff, powder puff, queen, queer, shit-stirrer, sissie, swish, sod, turd-burglar, pervert. For Aristophanes, as for Norman Mailer and Mary Whitehouse, buggery equaled coprophagy: a corrupt, destructive, hypocritical, excremental, urban scatology. Heterosexuality equalled the fecund, rural norm. Aristophanes' diet for a giant dung beetle was turds from a buggered boy: "he says he likes them well kneaded."1
To this day degeneracy often seems to be just another code word for homosexuality, as does perversion and decadence; this very essay will seem to many a "decadent" project. Nor would I balk at the term as long as it is interpreted in the French sense: intent on fulfilling Baudelaire's program of transforming the erotically passive to the intellectually active, the voluptuous to rational self-mastery.
· 1.Literally, "a hetairekos boy": male prostitute, or boy-friend (Aristophanes Peace 11).
Harold Beaver, reader of American literature at the University of Warwick, was recently elected to the new chair of American literature at the University of Amsterdam. He has published widely on American literature and is currently completeing a collection of his articles, The Great American Masquerade
Yet while all features of reality are dependent upon discourse, are there perhaps some features of discourse that are independent of reality the differences, for example, between the ways two discourses may say exactly the same thing? The old and ugly notion of synonomy rattles a warning here: Can there ever be two different discourses that say exactly the same thing in different ways, or does every difference between discourses make a difference in what is said? Luckily, we can pass over that general question here. We are concerned only with the specific question whether organization into referential chains and levels is purely conventional, independent of everything beyond discourse. And the plain answer is that such organization of discourse participates notably in the organization of a reality. A label in any nonnull application, literal or metaphorical, marks off entities of a certain kind, and even where the denotation is null, the label marks off labels of a certain kind that apply to that label. Just such marking off or selection of entities and relevant kinds makes them such as distinguished from the results of alternative organizations.
Nelson Goodman, emeritus professor of philosophy at Harvard University and the author of, among other works, The Structure of Appearance, Ways of Worldmaking, and Problems and Projects, is currently working on projects in the performing arts and on a new collection of essays. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are "The Status of Style' (Summer 1975), "Metaphor as Moonlighting" (Autumn 1979), "Twisted Tales; or, Story, Study, and Symphony" (Autumn 1980), and "The Telling and the Told" (Summer 1981).
The aim of interpretation is to capture the past in the future: to capture, not to recapture, first, because the iterative prefix suggests that meaning, which was once manifest, must now be found again. But the postulated author dispenses with this assumption. Literary texts are produced by very complicated actions, while the significance of even our simplest acts is often far from clear. Parts of the meaning of a text may become clear only because of developments occurring long after its composition. And though the fact that an author means something may be equivalent to the fact that a writer could have meant it, this is not to say that the writer did, on whatever level, actually mean it.
Alexander Nehamas, professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, has written articles on ancient Greek philosophy, literary theory, Nietzsche and Thomas Mann.