American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson

Posts Tagged ‘history

a Whip lash / Unbraiding in the Sun

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(From an essay in three parts written out of sequence. This picks up where part one left off and leads directly into part three.)

Indian Whips-Snake

Frederick William Frohawk, Indian Whip-Snake (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911)

I began with one model of historical knowledge and ended with another. To conceive of events as holes in time makes language a kind of residue or debris: the sand piled up around an ant hole, the rust around the drain of a sink. However intrinsic the relationship between the two ― between language and event ― the former can never be an explanation of the latter, only a witness to the fact that it occurred. Other language is needed to make sense of this “witness.” Historical knowledge requires a metalanguage.

To conceive of texts as misrecognized or misattributed events ― as whips that turn out to be encounters with snakes ― is not so very different in effect:  since knowledge of the “event” can only be had when the misrecognition or misattribution is grasped, metalanguage is still required. This metalanguage, however, is not simply an explanation of the text, but its first moment of authentic regard.

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Written by Ben Friedlander

May 23, 2009 at 11:20 am