[Milton-L] Re: Books, documents and texts

Dan Knauss daniel.knauss at mu.edu
Tue Dec 14 09:34:22 EST 2004

As I understand Gioia, the point is not that one desires poetry that the
critics can digest easily but rather poetry that provides ample
opportunities for the literati to display their critical prowess to their
reading community. Criticism in this context is essentially aesthetic
criticism, which operates according to an evolving tradition of values and
ideals within a certain community. Even if the political and anthropological
significance of those values and ideals are mused over by the critic, they
are not the main focus. This is not first-order or "scientific" analysis; it
is a secular, bourgeois version of the kind of intra-communal hermeneutic
practiced by "traditional" theologians and teachers in the various sects of
the Abrahamic religions. It has personal and communal ordering functions.
(See, for instance, Matthew Arnold and esp. the emergence of English
Literature as a discipline--apart from Philology.) It's a bit more complex
than the "poetry is what WE, not the [insert despised other] is NOT reading"
thesis, but that's approximately correct. 

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Brad Irish
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 6:55 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: Books, documents and texts

Thank you for posting those comments.  Though they are refreshingly
fair-minded, they are, it seems to me, still grounded on certain assumptions
(both literary and social) which may be problematic.  For example:


"As individual texts for analysis, Snoop Dogg's "Doggy Style" or Wallace
McRae's "The Cowboy Curmudgeon" offer a Harold Bloom or Helen Vendler little
opportunity to display their critical chops."


What, I wonder, is the true meaning of this statement?  Are we concerned
with the texts themselves, or with the ease with which our favorite critics
can digest them? Though rap "texts" may provide little opportunity for
Harold Bloom or Helen Vendler, they are a virtually untapped resource for
the critic patient enough to establish a systematic technique by which they
may be assessed.


Though I am not familiar with the current scholarship on hip hop, I get the
impression that rap lyrics--considered not as social artifacts, but as
poetic ones--fall into a kind of blindspot.  Perhaps once this problem has
been tackled, we can begin to properly assess the significance of these


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