Monday, October 11, 2010

Fish on Howl

I have had my differences with Stanley Fish in the space of this precious, precious blog -- here, here, and here for instance -- but his discussion of Howl, the film about Allen Ginsberg's trial and his famous poem that gave rise to it, demonstrates why I have not dropped his blog from my RSS reader. Fish:
Because the trial’s analyses of specific lines and passages interrupt (or are interrupted by) the movie-long declaiming of the poem, we have a chance to hear the same lines and passages twice and even three times, and, as a result, we experience the effect of deepening understanding that is produced by the classroom teacher who circles and surrounds a poem with information, references and multiple points of view. ... After a movie you usually want to talk about the actors or the direction or the cinema-photography, but when you leave this movie what you want to do is go directly to a bookstore and buy a copy of “Howl” so that you can do some literary interpreting yourself; and then you want to go back and see the movie again (as I did) in the hope that this time you have something of your own to offer. See you there.
After a post by Stanley Fish, I often want to refudiate* what he wrote, but not this time. This makes me want to re-read the poem, it makes me want to watch the film, and it even brings me back to my former romance with literary criticism.

That's a pretty good haul for a blog post. Thank you, Professor Fish. Let's never fight again.


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* It is a real word. Also: I can see Russia from my front porch.

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