Canons and Wisdoms

Canons and Wisdoms

Canons and Wisdoms

Canons and Wisdoms

Excerpt

This book aims to help provide justification for the abiding conviction that a profound wisdom inheres in poetry. It addresses what can be claimed for poetry, and for literature generally, after all due allowance has been made for the relativity of canons, the subjectivity of the literary experience, and the large, subtle, and in some ways comprehensive effects of received expectations, idea-systems, impressions, mechanisms, and socialization- deferences that have gone under the name of mentalitiés.

So, to touch at the outset on the climate in which I conceive myself to be writing, I intend this book in no way to dissent from the widely held and anthropologically informed position that we are inescapably conditioned in all our activities, including literary ones, by the social and historical circumstances of our specific situations. But at the same time I am emphasizing the seemingly contradictory position that the most achieved and perduring literary works have ultimately those qualities because they communicate wisdom, from sources fully within their situation but in some ways going beyond it. Since a sense of the implications of our social conditioning has dominated recent discussion, and for reasons that reflect my own conditioning in ways that would take a very long autobiographical discourse to lay out, I am concentrating here on the perdurable wisdom in literary works and what accepting its existence implies. At the same time I would not want my emphasis to give any aid and comfort to those who through anthropological naiveté and social imperialism would assign a special priority to the most enduring works in the Western tradition. To be sure, I have been discussing the Western tradition for most of my career, and it provides the central reference here. However, as the assumptions behind my books Myth and Language and Soundings imply, the wisdom coded into literary works exists in societies of all sorts all over the world. Even in so restricted a form as the haiku, a Westerner like myself, who has no Japanese, can glimpse the presence of a variety and profundity that would call for a careful ponderation. Doubtless the haiku has gotten this attention in works I cannot read. This would be all the more so for the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.