David Attwell, J.M. Coetzee: South Africa and the Politics of Writing
There is a point at which tracking down this or that allusion to Blake, Dostoevsky or Eliot becomes uninteresting
M.M. Bakhtin, Discourse in the Novel from The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
Understanding comes to fruition only in the response. Understanding and response are dialectically merged and mutually condition each other; one is impossible without the other.
Each word tasted of the context and contexts in which it has lived its socially charged life; all words and forms are populated by intentions.
Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence
A poem is a poet's melancholy at his lack of priority. The failure to have begotten oneself is not the cause of the poem, for poems arise out of the illusion of freedom, out of a sense of priority being possible. But the poem—unlike the mind in creation—is a made thing, and as such is an achieved anxiety.
Criticism is the discourse of the deep tautology—of the solipsist who knows that what he means is right, and yet that what he says is wrong. Criticism is the art of knowing the hidden roads that go from poem to poem.
James Bridle, booktwo.org: Everything wants to be digital
Everything beckons to us to perceive it. My appreciation of a contemporary text is an appreciation of the network: will this text link me to further texts which will, knowingly or unknowingly, connect me to other texts that will expand or heighten my appreciation, not of it or the other text, but holistically, will raise the network value of texts and experiences in general. And the texts want this too: they are longing for the network.
Mandy Brown, A working library: About the Library
Of the many ideas at play here, the most significant is my belief that every book is connected to many other books, such that no book can or should be considered in isolation. When you read a book, you bring to it all the other books you’ve read (and been affected by), so your reading of it is necessarily unique.
J. M. Coetzee, Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews
[Magda] may be mad (if that is indeed your verdict), but I, behind her, am merely passionate…I see no further point in calling her mad.
J. M. Coetzee, In the Heart of the Country
I creak into rhythms that are my own, stumble over the rocks of words that I have never heard on another tongue. I create myself in the words that create me.
This monologue of the self is a maze of words out of which I shall not find a way until someone else gives me a lead.
I am not deluded; or if I am, my delusions are privileged. I could not make up such words as are spoken to me. They come from gods; or, if not, then from another world.
More of my highlights (with tracked-down intertexts) on Readmill
Peter Cole, Poetry Magazine: The Invention of Influence: A Notebook
I used to want to make poems as though poetry or even speech hadn’t existed before me. Now I work at the other end of the spectrum, making poems mostly out of what already exists, and somehow finding that fresher. More mysterious.
Ingeborg Hoesterey, Pastiche
Pastiche…consciously acknowledges [the] past by demonstratively borrowing from it.
Hugh McGuire, Contents: Shifting: The Book
But the real change that I see coming is not so much in how we read, but the context “around” a book we read. If you imagine every book with its own URL, every chapter with its own URL, then you can start to think about the information in books being truly connected in ways it can’t be with print books, or ebooks as we’ve conceived them so far.
Lucy Newlyn, Paradise Lost and the Romantic Reader
For if one had to search for an earlier literary figure who embodied the personal cultural authority late eighteenth-century American men of letters lacked and who also mirrored their own rather complex sociocultural position, one could do no better than John Milton.
Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude
Myth—disguised, obscure, hidden—reappears in almost all our acts and intervenes decisively in our history: it opens the doors of communion
Venkatesh Rao, ribbonfarm: The Rhetoric of the Hyperlink
In short, we do not expect musical or visual arts to be unfragmented or “smooth” or allow us to forget context. We can tolerate extreme closeness to random noise in other media. Most art does not demand that our experience of it be “ludic” the way writing does. Our experience can be disconnected, arm’s-length and self-conscious, and still constitute a legitimate reading.
The amount of dissonance a single writer can create seems to be limited by a very tight ceiling that beyond which lies incomprehensible nonsense.
In other words, when you browse and skim, you aren’t distracted and unfocused. You are just reading a very dissonant book you just made up.
Tangled Web: An Interview with The New Inquiry’s Rachel Rosenfelt, in the Los Angeles Review of Books (cached here)
Criticism at its core is merely the act of revealing links between objects.
Michael Riffaterre, Fictional Truth
The intertext is hidden like the psychological unconscious and, like that unconscious, it is hidden in such a way that we cannot help finding it.
Dorian Taylor, via email
In conventional literature, references often exist intertextually, which themselves seem to reside in that dimly-lit stochastic process we know as reading.
K. P. Van Anglen, The New England Milton
As they became more and more overwhelmed by their disempowerment, many mid-century Unitarian Miltonists also became more venomous when they used the poet and his writings to help reassert their fast-disappearing hegemony. Their Milton as a consequence sometimes ceased being a positive role model at all and instead became a kind of tribal totem to be invoked in casting spells against alien powers.