Reading Richard Woodhouse’s draft letter to John Taylor, a response to Keats’s letter of October 27, 1818 which details Keats’s rejection of Wordsworth’s egotistical sublime, I am struck by three uses of the word “fit.”
First, Keats positions his response regarding artistic “identity” as dual indices of the motives of an artist, of the “whole pro and con, about genius, and views of the achievements and ambition and the coetera.” He fits himself into a place that is “everything and nothing”—where an artist has no individual identity. However, he also grants that he has ambition of “doing the world some good” which requires that he have some concept of identity. Keats wonders if this position is merely a role that he plays from time to time that is distant from any normal concept of self—“But even now I am perhaps not speaking from myself; but from some character in whose soul I now live.”
The difficulty of “fitting” between the non-identity-fied space of artistic creation and the real world of identity-fied space is characterized by Woodhouse as a fit of a different sort. Woodhouse identifies poets of several kinds. First, there is the poet who is “purely descriptive confining himself to external objects.” Second, there is the poet who further describes “the effects of thoughts of which he is conscious & which others are affected by.” I would suspect that he would place Wordsworth in this second category. A third kind “will soar so far into the regions of imagination as to conceive of beings & substances in situations different from what he has ever seen.” I suspect Coleridge’s responsibilities in Lyrical Ballads fit there. Others reason through poetry, and others will be witty—perhaps Pope fits in these kinds. “Another will throw himself into various characters & make them speak as the passions would naturally incite them to do.” Browning and Tennyson, after Woodhouse’s time, would certainly fit there. But to speak in tongues is a completely different sort of fit:
Posted by Jeff at February 18, 2005 12:57 PM
I immediately disliked Kathy Acker’s short story “Humility.” It is written in a twisted third person, often omitting pronouns. It’s partly about her evasion of the Black Mountain poet’s concept of voice:
To her, every word wasn’t only material in itself, but also sent out like beacons other words. Blue sent out heaven and The Virgin. Material is rich. I didn’t create language, writer thought. Later she would think about ownership and copyright. I’m constantly being given language. Since this language-world is rich and always changing, flowing, when I write, I enter a world which has complex relations and is perhaps, illimitable. This world both represents and is human history, public memories and private memories turned public, the records and the actualizations of human intentions. This world is more than life and death, for there life and death conjoin. I can’t make language, but in this world, I can play and be played.
So where is “my voice”?
Wanted to be a writer.
The reason why I dislike it so intensely isn’t because I disagree with the concepts contained in it (although I do), but because it is so forced, contrived, and self-consciously “arty-farty.” The issues, cast in an angry-feminist sort of rant, speak of voice as if it were solely a male construct. I begin to think that it is better to think of the gendered aspect of writing more abstractly. Giving birth to writing casts most writers (particularly literary ones) in largely female terms. There are notable exceptions, for instance Aphra Behn who spoke of writing as her “male part.” The gender confusion and the issues which Acker addresses, I think, are better expressed by John Keats in his letter to Benjamin Bailey of November 22, 1817:
Posted by Jeff at February 17, 2005 11:59 PMFebruary 2005 (2)