Adding to the Literary Lexicon

Debate poster, 1879

committed detachment – from The Writer’s Chronicle, Volume 42, Number 3, “Out of the Margins: The Expanding Role of Creative Writing in Today’s College Curriculum” by Chad Davidson and Gregory Fraser. They define this kind of detachment as a task where they “ask students to commit to the process of unfolding language, following stray associations, and discovering-rather than imparting–meaning. Put simply, we strive to break the attachment student writers often have to their first efforts on the page. It may be more fruitful to dwell, to ‘improvise,’ to let the work surprise.” Davidson and Fraser compare committed detachment to Keat’s negative capability.


chrestomathy– a compendium of specific passages cited from literary works to assist an individual in the learning of a foreign language. See Amitav Ghosh’s example from the first work, Sea of Poppies, which is part of his Ibis trilogy.

hauntology– defined in The Guardian’s “Hauntology–a not so new critical manifestation” by Andrew Gallix, published June 17, 2011:

In the original French, ‘hauntology’ sounds almost identical to “ontology”, a concept it haunts by replacing – in the words of Colin Davis – “the priority of being and presence with the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive”.

Further defined by the Berkeley Art Museum’s exhibit Hauntology,

essentially the logic of the ghost, is a concept as ephemeral and abstract as the term implies. Since it was first used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in a 1993 lecture delivered at UC Riverside concerning the state of Marxist thought in the post-Communist era, the term hauntology has been widely discussed in philosophical and political circles, as well as becoming a major influence in the development of various sub-genres of electronic music…for Derrida himself, hauntology is a philosophy of history that upsets the easy progression of time by proposing that the present is simultaneously haunted by the past and the future. Specifically, Derrida suggests that the specter of Marxist utopianism haunts the present, capitalist society, in what he describes as “the persistence of a present past.” The notion of hauntology also can be seen as describing the fluidity of identity among individuals, marking the dynamic and inevitable shades of influence that link one person’s experience to another’s, both in the present and over time…In the fifteen years since Derrida first used this term, hauntology, and the related term, hauntological, have been adopted by the British music critic Simon Reynolds who describes as it “an uneasy mixture of the ancient and the modern.”

shivering fragments– from Virginia Woolf”s 1908 Perugia

I attain a different kind of beauty, achieve a symmetry by means of infinite discords, showing all the traces of the mind’s passage through the world, achieve in the end some kind of whole made of shivering fragments—to me this seems the natural process, the flight of the mind.

suspended revelation– referenced in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the narrator notes the telling of a story, where the teller with holds vital information of the narrative to heighten anticipation and generate different expectations. From the novel:

He paused; the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly rustling. I almost wondered they did not check their songs and whispers to catch the suspended revelation; but they would have to wait many minutes–so long was the silence protracted. At last I looked up at the tardy speaker he was looking eagerly at me.

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