Friday, November 17, 2006

Linguistic affective flattening

Attributions once made to the gods or the muses (Gerard Manley Hopkin’s “sweet fire the sire of the muse,” Emerson’s “all poetry is first written in the heavens”) have been transformed into the 20th century’s rather more prosaic constructions of “primary process,” “prelogical thought”, and “bisociative thinking.”
-- Manic Depressive Illness, p. 337

This process of toning down -- a kind of linguistic affective flattening -- has become so pervasive as to be preemptive. It certainly doesn't make the world easier for poets, not to mention receptivity to poetry. There is an enrichment in the shift of point of view, in the addition of terms. We have more at our disposal. But we are losing direct and easy access to whole ranges of emotion. More and more of our verbiage has become simply disposable, like newspapers: to be scanned on the way to the garbage can.

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