|I’m dawdling towards the end of my monograph and have started to wonder about the not unpleasant task of christening the little beast. So I’m constantly scribbling down quotes, most of which have nothing to do with my subject but which strike me as somehow funny or odd or generally simpatico. Things like|
The blizzard of the page.
The kindness of novels.
A piece of traffic.
Richly cloath’d Apes, are called Apes.
Smells of course were varied.
The worst inn’s worst room.
As winds hollow cliffs.
There’s language in her eye.
The rumble of distant thunder at a picnic.
Few of which would make good titles, but the prospect of actual application sort of fell away, in the task, and it just became about gathering. (Respectively, Ashbery, Michael Wood, Ashbery again, Donne, Lawrence, Pope, Bellow, Shakespeare, and Auden (on death), if you’re interested.)
A week or so ago I was reading a review of a new Ezra Pound biography by A. David Moody (that’s A. David Moody, as opposed to The David Moody). There’s lots of good stuff about Pound stomping round the streets of London in bright red trousers and absurd hats. The section on Pound’s genius as an editor was particularly nice: were it not for Pound’s interventions, Moody reminds us, we would still be referring to Eliot’s ‘Wasteland’ as ‘He Do the Police in Different Voices.’
It seems to me we’re in The Pragmatic Period for scholarly titles. It’s all phrase, colon, explanation. As in The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street; or Green Shakespeare: from ecopolitics to ecocriticism; or Who the devil taught thee so much Italian?: Italian language learning and literary imitation in early modern England. These are heady times for the colon. But all this sensible marketing rationalism is a long way from the glory days of the mid-90s when chiasmus was hotter than Obama. The history of literature and the literature of history. The politics of gender and the gender of politics. And then of course those nesting little brackets and slashes and italics: Poet(ic)s of place. Re-presenting Milton. Puns seem to have become a thing of the past, too. A friend of mine once wrote a paper on Francis Bacon’s influence on John Donne and he called it ‘How do you like your Bacon Donne?’ Which, for my money, is the greatest contribution to early modern studies in the last decade. And then there’s the fabled art history paper, which perhaps never existed: ‘If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it.’
More anon. I need to keep thinking. Quoting.