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I’m sitting here recalling my conversation last night with an old friend about our many hikes in Washington State’s wilderness areas and national forests--set aside by legislation for their environmental value, including for hikers like us.

Outlandish Dwelling: “The Raven,” Part Last

Returning from the flurry of the start of the semester, I want to consider the close of Coleridge’s “The Raven” (much as Tim has now brought to a close his wonderful readings of “The Rime”).  When we last left our bird, he’d returned to the oak—now “grown a tall oak tree”—and brought along with him a “She.”  The pair built themselves “a nest in the topmost bough, / And young ones they had, and were happy enow.”  But avian tragedy ensues in full, dramatic measure:

But soon came a Woodman in leathern guise,
His brow, like a pent-house, hung over his eyes.
He’d an axe in his hand, not a word he spoke,
But with many a hem! and a sturdy stroke,
At length he brought down the poor Raven’s own oak.
His young ones were killed; for they could not depart,
And their mother did die of a broken heart.

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textual-biological correspondences

Reading Derek Ratcliffe’s wonderful ornithological, corvi-cultural study, The Raven, returns me to a closing query of my previous entry: “What sort of animal meaning . . . does [the raven] present in Coleridge’s “The Raven”? Ratcliffe quotes one R. Bosworth Smith:

A bird whose literary history begins with Cain, with Noah, and with Elijah, and

who gave his name to the Midianite chieftain Oreb; whose every action and cry

was observed and noted down, alike by the descendents of Romulus and the ancestors of

Rolf the Ganger; who occurs in every second play of Shakespeare; who forms the subject

of the most eerie poem of Edgar Alan Poe, and enlivens the pages of the Roderick

Random of Smollett, of the Rookwood of Ainsworth, of the Barnaby Rudge of Dickens,

is a bird whose historical and literary pre-eminence is unapproached. (cited Ratcliffe 9)

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Animals in poetry

Tim Morton’s blog entries on Coleridge’s Rime have me thinking about animals and representation. Does an animal depiction in a fable or allegory retain some trace of its animal referent-sign’s animality? Or, put differently, can animals be used in such a way that their animal nature is eradicated and they become fable as such? Can their materiality, that sublime ‘other side’ of the metaphorical equation, be supplanted by cultural reference—reference toward a human moral, political dispute, event, and so on? What then of Akira Lippit’s intriguing Freudian notion of “animetaphor”:

The animal world opens up behind the dreamwork, establishing a kind of originary

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Physical proximity to nature

“What are men to rocks and mountains!” Elizabeth Bennet’s exclamation belies an important romantic-era question about the relationship between human beings and the natural world. It is a question Onno Oerlemans explores in Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature, which finds the romantic “impulse to ‘know’” the natural world of rocks and mountains to result in a key dilemma, in so much as that world proves incapable of being resolved into distinct, categorizeable objects (195). Physical proximity to nature often reveals the observer’s epistemological distance from nature.

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