There’s building and there’s growing

“Whereas aestheticians from Aristotle on have insisted that figurative language should redouble and underline the thrust of the anecdote, it turns out that exactly the opposite is what often appeals to us in great works of art, a strange and even mystical discrepancy between the natural drift of the story and the contradictory impulses of the metaphors and similes and descriptions.” — Edmund White, “The Strange Charms of John Cheever”

Self-reflective opacity

“Insofar as we can treat a text as not referring to what is outside or beyond it, we more easily understand that it has internal relationships independent of the coding procedures by which we may find it transparent upon a known world.” — Kermode, “What Precisely Are the Facts?”, The Genesis of Secrecy

Regarding Words of Manipulative Dissimulation

“We should never underestimate our predisposition to believe whatever is presented under the guise of an authoritative report and is also consistent with the mythological structure of a society from which we derive comfort, and which it may be uncomfortable to dispute.” — Kermode, “What Precisely Are the Facts?”, The Genesis of Secrecy

Just the facts, ma’am

“If so many causes act in concert to ensure that texts are from the beginning and sometimes indeterminately studded with interpretations; and if these texts in their very nature demand further interpretation and yet resist it, what should we expect when the document in question denies its own opacity by claiming to be a transparent account of the recognizable world?  In practice we may feel that we have no particular difficulty in distinguishing between narratives which claim to be reliable records of fact, and narratives which simply go through the motions of being such a record.  But when we think about it, as on occasion we may compel ourselves to do, the distinction may grow troublesome.” — Kermode, “What Precisely Are the Facts?”, The Genesis of Secrecy

Historical appearances

“Sometimes it appears that the history of interpretation may be thought of as a history of exclusions, which enable us to seize upon [one] issue rather than on some other as central, and choose from the remaining mass only what seems most compliant.” — Kermode, “Carnal and Spiritual Senses”, The Genesis of Secrecy

Forward, into the past

“The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living.” — Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

Plus ca change

“In the family, schools and churches, tyrannies have been set up which have vested interests in mental stupor and convention, and which permeate the atmosphere with cant and hypocrisy convenient to themselves.” — from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, regarding the targets of George Meredith’s writings (most notably, Erewhon) in the late 19th century

Traversing the desert without a compass

“Every work of art, even though it is produced by following an explicit or implicit poetic of necessity, is effectively open to a virtually unlimited range of possible readings, each of which causes the work to acquire new vitality in terms of one particular taste, or perspective, or personal performance.” — Umberto Eco, “The Poetics of the Open Work”

Subliminality, Transliminality

“Greek tragedy was rooted in the empirical observation that there is no relationship between justice and suffering. Tragedy confronts us with our frailties and limits and the disastrous consequences of trying to exceed them. It advances a counter-intuitive thesis: that efforts to limit suffering through the accumulation of knowledge or power might invite more suffering.” — Richard Ned Lebow, The Tragic Vision of Politics

We pronounced it differently in grad school

“Since men cannot be aware of everything, their words, speech and writing can mean something that they themselves did not intend to say or write….  Not occasionally only, but always, the meaning of a text goes beyond its author.” — Kermode in The Art of Telling, quoting Gadamer in Truth and Method (trans. from Wahrheit und Methode by Barden and Cumming), quoting and summarizing Chaldenius, who probably wrote in Latin as he was writing in the mid-18th century