Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Well, That's Another Fine Isolated Verisimilitude Youve Gotten Us Into

In The End of the Mind: The Edge of the Intelligible in Hardy, Stevens, Larkin, Plath, and Gluck, DeSales Harrison credits Larkin with "pledg[ing] allegiance to the rhetoric of verisimilitude." By this he means that Larkin's
obligation is to preserve, to keep the experience "from oblivion for its own sake." This is the positive aspect of the obligation, the obligation to do something. There is a negative aspect as well, an obligation not to do something else.The poet can do no more than preserve. He cannot, Larkin implies, elevate, extrapolate, mythologize, etherealize, or transcendentalize.

Odd to define "negative" as "an obligation not to do something else." and then directly follow it with a reference to Keats. If Harrison is extrapolating from Larkin's obligation, he's extrapolating pretty far away from Keats' Negative Capability.

But Harrison is pretty much on the other side of the fence from me -- as it seems everyone else is. He puts the inability to remain content with half-knowledge on the same shelf as irritable searching after fact and reason, and says that "one reaches for those at the expense of the 'fine isolated verismilitude.'"

Franklin R. Rogers, in Painting and Poetry: Form, Metaphor, and the Language of Literature, also says that Coleridge's need for total knowledge renders him incapable of being in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts.

And I suppose there's something to these gentlemen's point. Negative Capability isn't incapability, which Coleridge apparently has. But that fine isolated verisimilitude still bothers me. Where's the Negative Incapability in letting an isolated verisimiltude, however fine, go by? Who's to say you have to irritably reach out grab every isolated verisimiltude that comes along?

This verisimilitude is isolated. If one grabs it too quickly, one loses the chance to find out if it will resonate with other verisimilitudes, maybe even some truths. "Verisimilitude" to me is still a counterfeit, something that has the appearance of truth.

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