Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections

By Neil Fraistat | Go to book overview
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Earl Miner


Some Issues for Study of Integrated Collections

In recent years there has been a growing interest in integrated collections. Individuals studying this or that writer have made much the same discovery--that a given collection is integrated. In the fine glow of the experience, each of us has tended to be ignorant that colleagues in literatures of other times and places are making similar discoveries. Until most recently, there has been little comparative study, and until investigation advances fully in range, criteria, and theory, we shall not make clear what it is we are studying. Being optimistic of spirit and no younger in age, I shall approach some problems as opportunities in disguise. The fact that my syntax is declarative and that I reach certain solutions should not be taken to imply that my answers are necessarily correct. I think they are, but that is another matter.

It can only be assumed that collecting derives from the human urges to have, to have conveniently, and to preserve. And that the desire for convenience and sense explains why collections are not higgledy-piggledy store- houses but, in many cases, tidied and organized arrangements, whose orderings add a new sense, a new meaning. And because these acts are so natural to us, it is also natural to ignore the significance of what we are doing. Moreover, when it occurs to us that we have discovered something of importance concealed in the obvious, we are apt to think--wrongly-- that what we have discovered is either unique or always found in collections. A little reflection shows that collections of whatever kind can be found in English literature from pretty much its beginnings to the present, but it is wrong to presume that all those collections are orderly or that, if they are ordered, they are fully integrated.

It is likewise a mistake to assume that collections are a possession solely of English literature. Greek works seemed to need to await the Alexandrians before collection began in earnest, but the earliest extant poetic classic in China, the Shih Ching (ca. B.C. 450), is a collection. And the first of the royal anthologies in Japan, the Kokinshū (ca. A.D. 905-20), is an integrated collection. 1 It is a yet greater error to presume that there are only a couple of ways of integrating or ordering collections. One reason

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