A Flea and a Fly in a Flue

Steven L Hale (shale@DEKALB.DC.PEACHNET.EDU)
Wed, 16 Oct 1996 22:08:40 -0400

On this business of ethos and difficult (meta)language:

It seems to me that there are at least 2 reasons for choosing difficult
language--(1) As Donne does in "The Flea" to use wit to break down
barriers that so-called ordinary language imposes; (2) as Pier della
Vigne does ("quoted" by Dante) in the Inferno to obfuscate so as to
ameliorate one's paltry condition.

Now some theorists (as artists) have the (in my political/religious
opinion) valid motive to communicate a difficult truth (whether they
succeed or not), while others (peering at art through la jalousie) seek to
displace the clarity and terror and wonder of great art with a preciosity
that's self-referential at best. After all, it takes a lot of time to learn
the current vocabulary, so it seems a shame not to use the langue du
jour to impress journal editors and mystify undergraduates.

--Steven Hale

"That's all right by me, don't think that I'm complaining. After all,
it's only leisure time isn't it?" Robert Wyatt, from Moon in June