Academic journal article Chicago Review

Peter Dale Scott's Epic: Towards a Stopping Place

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Peter Dale Scott's Epic: Towards a Stopping Place

Article excerpt

"The personal is political," went a much-quoted, and much misused, slogan of the 1970s. For more than fifteen years, Peter Dale Scott's ongoing epic poem has documented, with a rare open-mindedness and curiosity, the actual intersections between his life as a political activist and his other lives - religious, aesthetic, familial, erotic. A third volume, excerpted here, is now nearing completion. The view of politics itself has darkened a good deal, over the years. The conspiracy hunter often seems lost in a Pynchonesque labyrinth, where he cannot tell the endless chain of clues from randomness, coincidence, and deliberate disinformation. Worse, he is no longer quite sure who are the good guys, who the bad. What if the exhibitionism of the New Left caused the election of Reagan? What if Nixon fell not for his vices but his virtues - his detente with Russia and China too much for even more right-wing elements in the FBI and CIA? What if Jimmy Carter, appearances to the contrary, was a more compliant President? As T. S. Eliot, the subject of Scott's doctoral dissertation, wrote in "Gerontion,"

History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors And issues ...

Unnatural vices Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.

Disillusionment with the fruits of action seems to drive Scott, as it drove Eliot, to an even more anguished inquiry into what gives action its integrity, in the moment. …

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