Between Languages: The Uncooperative Text in Early Welsh and Old English Nature Poetry

By Sarah Lynn Higley | Go to book overview

7
Intentional Difficulty in Early Welsh Poetry

Feminine pleasure has to remain inarticulate in language, in its own language, if it is not to threaten the underpinnings of logical operations. -- Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One

Keluyd kelet y aruaeth ("The skillful, let him conceal his design.") -- Eiry Mynyd

Here I enter into perilous space.

Poetic obscurity is of immense interest to discourse analysis, reader response theory, sign theory, and other modes of inquiry that examine epistemology, the relationship of text and reader/hearer, and the ideological and cultural underpinnings of notions of language in literature.1 The very term "obscurity" -- not to mention "intentional obscurity" -- privileges clarity by reading absence into its opposite. In poetry, writes George Steiner, "multiplicity of meaning, 'enclosedness,' are the rule rather than the exception. . . . Lexical resistance is the armature of meaning, guarding the poem from the necessary commonalities of prose."2 In After Babel Steiner repeatedly stresses

____________________
1
For a fruitful discussion of literature as linguistic "deviation," see Derek Attridge, Peculiar Language: Literature as Difference from the Renaissance to James Joyce ( Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988).
2
On Difficulty, in On Difficulty and Other Essays ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972, 1978), 21.

-187-

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Between Languages: The Uncooperative Text in Early Welsh and Old English Nature Poetry
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