Literature

Speaking Otherwise: Rita Dove’s Poetics of Speech and Silence

Even a cursory glance at the titles and opening lines of number of poems in Rita Dove’s collection entitled Museum will alert the reader to her preoccupation with the premises of speech and language (The Hill Has Something to Say: “but isn’t talking”; Catherine of Alexandria: “Deprived of learning and/ the chance to travel,/ no wonder sainthood/ came as a voice”; Catherine of Siena: “You walked the length of Italy/ to find someone to talk to.“; Shakespeare Say: “He drum the piano wood, crowing”; Anti-Father: “Contrary to/ tales you told us”; Flirtation: “After all, there’s no need/ to say anything”; Exeunt the Viols: “with their throb and yearn, their sad/ stomach of an alley cat. Listen:// even the ocean mourns the passage/ of voices so pure and penetrant...”) [1] . I wish to examine two of the poems contained in the volume, both of which illustrate the privilege that attends speech and the terrors that may haunt it. Both poems contemplate issues of embodiment and transfiguration, and the interlocking (and inextricable) notions of power and subjugation. Death is a governing motif in each of them. They also resemble one another in their incorporation of footnotes into the larger bodies of the poems, a move that anchors each of them in a specific historical and geographical context.

Henry David Thoreau’s Politics of Standing Aloof

In the eulogy that Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered at Thoreau’s funeral in May 1862, Emerson notes that Thoreau once claimed to be able to look around the Walden environs and “tell by the plants what time of year it was within two days.” [1] This intimate familiarity with the cycles of local plants and animals reflects Thoreau’s deep knowledge of the local environment and the years of intensive study that produced it. Thoreau’s famed nature walks had made him an encyclopedia of environmental knowledge. But to Emerson, who had decided to focus on the social and political questions that preoccupied a nation on the brink of bloody Civil War, the implications of Thoreau’s career were as appalling as they were amazing. Thoreau was a serious person, but his life seemed somehow like the trivial tale of a village eccentric. As the society grappled with questions about human slavery and national union, what value did a life such as Thoreau’s have? How could it add to the common welfare? How could a life spent achieving intimacy with nature be more than simply self-in-dulgent and frivolous?

My Scattered Souls

The Multiplicity of Being

in Amelia Rosselli’s English Poetry

O were I one in Three! Just like the Holy Ghost,

the Father and the Son, I’d reunite my scattered souls and string them in from all the seas abroad;

no longer climb upon perdition’s mast and wave a banner crying God, at last! [1]

“One in Three” is the opening poem in Amelia Rosselli’s October Eliza-bethans, a cycle written in English in 1956. The twenty-six year old Rosselli was just beginning her poetic career, which, over the next forty years, would manifest itself in English, Italian, and French. As the above poem calls for a Trinitarian merging of three divine forms into one, Rosselli would attempt to braid her native languages into a grammar of multi-plicity that reflects her struggle to combine the disparate facets of her life. Having grown up with four homelands (France, England, the United States, and Italy), three native languages (French, English, and Italian), and two religious heritages (Catholicism and Judaism), Rosselli stood at the origin of a multi-dimensional coordinate system. In her writing, she would attempt to reconcile, in addition to her linguistic and cultural identities, her socialist sentiments with her middle class background, her training as a musicologist with her study of poetics, and her identity as a woman poet with the male-dominated Italian tradition [2].

Birds of a Feather … Wire Together: Creativity in Poetry and Natural Language Use

The paper raises questions concerning conventional meanings and non-conventional meanings in everyday language and poetical language alike and examines the nature of creativity and humor in various linguis-tic and social contexts. More concretely, the paper investigates our ability to use and to switch between conventional and non-conventional mean-ings at ease in a variety of contexts. The paper argues for the importance of experience in meaning creation and the different conceptualization patterns for situations as opposed to contexts that range from linguistic to pragmatic to mental contexts. The paper will attempt to investigate how faithful we are to our experiences on the one hand and how ven-turing we are in experimentation on the other for conceptualizations re-flected in the acts of meaning creation. As a corollary, a dichotomy will be adopted according to which linguistic expressions may be evaluated by subjects and assigned the values “understandable” versus “beyond understandable or inconceivable” as opposed to “meaningful” versus “meaningless”, brought into correlation with conceptual and perceptual knowledge, respectively. Further, the paper will explore the fundamen-tal differences between the basic types of meaning extension known as mapping, mental space building and context building and will argue for the complementary function of these mental processes in our interpreta-tion processes.

At the same time, the paper is an attempt to show that human cog-nition, and specifically the processing of contextualized verbal mate-rial, makes use of diverse types of information. In terms of discourse, we are confronted with the fact that contexts determining our inter-pretations are far from being homogeneous entities: contexts can be perceived as representations of situations (based on physical proper-ties of events), as linguistic structure (greatly determined by morpho-syntactic and lexical structures) and as conceptual structure (realized by mental schemes and images or cognitive models). The paper ar-gues that the multitude of contexts leads to a seamless interaction between epistemology and ontology. The above assumption will be tested on different types of discourse.

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