Keats on the Promise of Parochialism

September 19, 2006 | 31 comments
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Golden Ages tend to be rather parochial. For example, Hawthorne’s Boston was presided over by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. who confidently proclaimed that the Massachusetts State House was the hub of the solar system. (Or maybe it was Beacon Hill. I forget.) John Keats wonderfully captured this sort of backward self-confidence in a few lines of his Fragment of an Ode to Maia, where he asks:

Mother of Hermes! And still youthful Maia!
May I sing to thee
As thou wast hymn’d on the shores of Baieae?
Or may I woo thee
In Earlier Sicilian? Or thy smiles
Seek as they once were sought, in Grecian isles,
By bards who died content on pleasant sward,
Leaving great verse unto a little clan

I think that parochialism is a depressingly common subtext in Mormon intellectual life. Briefly stated, there are a lot of smart kids from places like Salt Lake City, southeastern Idaho, or suburban wards outside of LA or DC. They live within the bosom of Mormonism, and one day encounter the big, wide, non-Mormon intellectual world. It is a great and exciting place. But it also leaves them feeling slightly embarrassed of their past. After reading through this or that great thinker or studying in the ivy-covered buildings in Cambridge, Princeton, Chicago, Berkley, or some other academic Mecca, the local meeting house seems somewhat crass, and the untutored mass of Mormon teachings somewhat retrograde and embarrassing. Mormonism makes them feel parochial.

Of course, anxiety and embarrassment, the horror of parochialism, probably strikes every non-WASP group in America from time to time, and perhaps especially when those groups stray into the Universities. Indeed, with the rise of multi-culturalism, even the WASPs are entitled to their moments of alienation if they are so inclined. Mormons, once they find – as Damon Linker put it so simply on this blog – “how profoundly ridiculous most non-Mormons consider [them] to be� frequently embark on the all-American tradition of ethnic self-loathing in an effort to, well, avoid the “profoundly ridiculous� aura of Orem or Idaho. In doing this, they trod a well-worn path taken by Irish, Poles, Jews, and other ethnic minorities before them.

Keats, however, provides a wonderful alternative view of parochialism. A view of

…bards who died content on pleasant sward,
Leaving great verse unto a little clan

Keats, weighed down by all of the tradition that rendered him supremely unparochial, envied those who stood at the beginning and created the verse to which even the carefully studied spontaneity of his Romanticism must allude.

O give me their old vigour!

he pleads. Keats might envy our plight. Mormon intellectuals, far from redeeming themselves from the embarrassment of Happy Valley or some other unfortunate relation, instead have an opprotunity to leave great verse unto a little clan. The difficulty lies not in the littleness of the clan but in the composition of the verse.

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31 Responses to Keats on the Promise of Parochialism

  1. Alison Moore Smith on September 19, 2006 at 1:08 am

    Whether or not I’m an intellectual would vary greatly depending upon the definition being employed. My husband, however, qualifies by almost any definition. He has a PhD in electrical engineering and was a professor of ocean engineering for ten years in Florida before we moved our engineering firm to Utah.

    Personally, I have found the narrow mentality coming more from those who would deem small-town Mormons automatically “parochial” than the other way around. And I find that even small-town Mormons (my husband if from Lovell, Wyoming) can grow a pretty vast clan if they get over the prejudice and just go about doing whatever it is they do best.

  2. Mark Butler on September 19, 2006 at 1:36 am

    I confess I find common understanding of the doctrine rather parochial, but I perceive the common everyday practice of the LDS faithful exactly the opposite, perhaps more profound than we imagine and in more respects than we can count, all weaknesses to the contrary.

  3. MLU on September 19, 2006 at 1:59 am

    Like many provincials, I make occasional excursions to the centers. What I’ve come to believe, based on lots of experience, is that the provincial mind is universal. Though “ivy-covered buildings in Cambridge, Princeton, Chicago, Berkley” might seem imbued with the charms of some higher sphere, the folks there are also doomed to perform for a little clan.

    I think the technical term for seeing this is “disillusionment.”

    Much of the cachet of the center has to do with fashion, as Chekhov illustrated in “The Cherry Orchard.” The fashions are a little different at the center, but it doesn’t take genius to adopt a new fashion. Is anyone more provincial than, say, a Manhattanite?

    I find that Joseph Smith–that backcountry rube–stretches my mind and leaves me more enlightened than more socially-approved philosophers. He seems to escape parochialisms far more readily than Kant, Hume, Hegel and such.

    This leads me to think that although, In some sense, the opposite of “parochial” is “cosmopolitan,” in a more important sense, we overcome our parochialisms to the degree that we reach the eternal things, and we do this best if we are somewhat undistracted by what will play in Cambridge. The truth may be that If we are writing great verse, it will not for a little clan, really, though it will appear that way from the provincial point of view inhabited by those cozying up to the courts of Babylon.

    Who was more provincial–Pharaoh in his grand court or Moses on Sinai?

  4. MLU on September 19, 2006 at 2:03 am

    Oh, Nate, I forgot to say: “Nice post.” Great quote from Keats and a perfect last sentence.

  5. Jonathan Green on September 19, 2006 at 4:12 am

    Nice post, Nate, and I agree that the quality of the verse is what counts. Not that would-be Mormon intellectuals are limited to composing for their own small clan these days, of course. And I wonder how much parochial self-loathing is largely or entirely a product of the imagination rather than a reaction to existing prejudices. Surely we can’t appear much more ridiculous than self-identifying Jews or adherents of Catholic orders, both groups that have a long tradition of engagement in the intellectual sphere and in the American academy. Fleeing one’s heritage might open up access to the kinds of places that find Mormons ridiculous–although who really wants perpetual trial membership in a place like that anyway? In purely careerist terms, it seems to me there’s a lot more untapped potential in staking out a place as an open and unapologetic Mormon who can bring an unusual perspective to the table.

  6. Russell Arben Fox on September 19, 2006 at 7:02 am

    This is autobiography, right Nate?

    Jim Faulconer, years ago, wrote a fine little essay on Mormonism and “provincialism” for Student Review. If I remember correctly, he anticipated arguments that have since been made by Eric Eliason and Richard Bushman, about how we have allowed ourselves to be “colonized,” the self-sufficient dream of Deseret transformed into a sense that we are an odd little province, being watched over by the Romans. Some people react to this by becoming defensive about the province, and adopt a “big fish in a little pond” mentality. Others abandon the province or look down on it, seeking the “big time” of Rome. I’m not sure what his solution to the problem was. Did you even have one, Jim?

  7. Adam Greenwood on September 19, 2006 at 8:39 am

    “My husband, however, qualifies by almost any definition. He has a PhD in electrical engineering and was a professor of ocean engineering for ten years in Florida before we moved our engineering firm to Utah.”

    Your husband is, by almost any definition, not an intellectual. Knowing lots of useful and verifiable things pretty much disqualifies you. Too bad. He could have studied humanities and gone to law school like the rest of us.

  8. Nathan Oman on September 19, 2006 at 9:54 am

    “This is autobiography, right Nate?”

    Not quite…

  9. Mark Butler on September 19, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and hearken unto soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
    (2 Ne 12:6)

    I don’t think this scripture is referring to sexual immorality or pediophilia, but rather the way the children of Israel despised their own heritage, and hearkened unto the learning and religion of others, particularly the great civilizations of the east: Babylon, Assyria, etc. who no doubt were generally rather more sophisticated and urbane than the parochial understanding of the Jews.

    Alma the Younger appears to have had the same problem, among others. Same thing happened in Christianity several centuries later – Ambrose, Augustine, et al discarded certain doctrines of Christianity (divine embodiment in particular – Augustine was embarrassed – thought it was ridiculous) in favor of Greek absolutism.

    But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble
    (Jacob 4:14)

    Is there any more salient characteristic of highbrow culture in almost all ages and times, than giving the greatest credence and honor to the mystical, the irrational, and the mysterious (that which cannot be understood) instead of the plain and the simple? The creation and worship of mysteries has dominated the heights of culture since the dawn of civilization, and the religion of the shepherds and the fishermen looked down upon.

    Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

    And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

    The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

    That faith also might increase in the earth; that mine everlasting covenant might be established; that the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

    Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
    (The Lord’s Preface, D&C 1:17-23)

  10. Alison Moore Smith on September 19, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Nate, I too forgot to tell you how I liked your post. I’ve been thinking about it all night.

    MLU, great insigts.

    “Your husband is, by almost any definition, not an intellectual. Knowing lots of useful and verifiable things pretty much disqualifies you. Too bad. He could have studied humanities and gone to law school like the rest of us.”

    Well, Adam, there is good news and bad news in this. Perhaps my husband will be disappointed–but I doubt it, as he cares little about such things. (You know how engineers are.) But, apparently I have been elevated to confirmed intellectual status, a position I will savor, cherish, and throw in other people’s faces for years to come.

    Does that make me parochial?

  11. john f. on September 19, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Great post Nate and salient insights. My inner contrarian always resists Utah-bashing, and perhaps part of the reason is found in the ideas underlying this post. While at Oxford, for example, I never got involved in Utah-revulsion and did not succumb to the type of alienation from “parochial” roots that you note is offered in ivy-covered buildings. When I reflect on this, an irony surfaces because, although I was born in Provo while my parents were at BYU, I did not grow up in Utah but rather in Dallas. But the roots are deeper than my own experience and incorporate the rural parochialism of Sanpete county where part of my ancestry settled as well as the SLC Avenues where, as it was put on an earlier thread, “Mormonism was tight” and from which other progenitors alternatively celebrated and reviled the parochialism of Mormon doctrine. And, as you note, Latter-day Saints have this parochialism built in, if for no other reason, I would add, than because of the totalizing nature of the doctrine and the relatively small number of adherents to that doctrine. But if irrational faith were something to be embarassed of, then there would be a lot more ashamed people than Latter-day Saints; think hundreds of millions of Hindus, a billion Muslims, and a billion Catholics. Their intellectuals have a bigger clan, but must face the same issues, I would imagine.

    Mark (# 9), great point about Augustine.

  12. YL on September 19, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Mark Butler 9, MLU 3

    Mark, excellent comment 9!

    MLU, I really enjoyed your comment 3: “I find that Joseph Smith–that backcountry rube–stretches my mind and leaves me more enlightened than more socially-approved philosophers. He seems to escape parochialisms far more readily than Kant, Hume, Hegel and such.

    A well taught 8-year old in our church can tell the world the answers to the most fundamental questions in philosophy: what is the nature of God, where did we come from, why are we here, and where are we going? You can’t find any philosopher – Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Hegel, Descartes – who can match the answers of a well taught 8-year old in our church.

  13. MDKI on September 19, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    There are two interesting topics at play here—parochialism and the response of the intellectual after realizing that the tradition/location she/he comes from is/was parochial. One thought that seems to be implied is the universality of parochialism. Are all places parochial? It seems that most would agree that “yes� parochialism exists both in the Mormon capital and the academic capitals. But I think the next question is, are all parochialisms equal? In other words, are there unique aspects to a parochialism that causes the type of embarrassment discussed by Nate? For instance I grew up in Hawaii, and lived in Utah for 4 years (while attending BYU). Yet I find myself having much more parochial embarrassment for my Mormon experience in Utah than my Hawaiian experience in Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong, parochialism is alive and well in Hawaii, but the type of parochialism that bothers me in Hawaii is the sense of detachment from so many of the issues that seem so live and important in other places (trying already hearing the score of Monday Night Football before it’s even broadcast… ah!). This isn’t to say that there aren’t more pernicious forms of parochialism available there (perhaps I am a part of them, don’t realize it, and are thereby pacified), just that those which consciously aggravate me, aggravate me to a lesser degree than my Mormon experience in Utah has (I’m not meaning to Utah bash here, but am trying to elaborate on the question of differing parochialisms).

    Self-discovery certainly can be a process of realizing the parochial tendencies within one’s identity, but it seemed to be a smoother process for my Hawaiian-self and Chinese-self, than with my Mormon-self. It very well may be because I am ignorant of the Hawaiian and Chinese parochialisms and still need to work through those, or perhaps the element of “religion� plays a different factor than “cultural� background does, or perhaps there is something unique within Mormonism.

    I’m interested to know what other’s thoughts are.

  14. Mark B. on September 19, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, everybody’s parochial, only in different subjects.

  15. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    MDKI: I think that you raise some really interesting things. I knew a number of people in law school who had grown up in the bizarrely seculed world of the super-rich in NYC. In their universe, the world seemed to consist of Manhattan and various other large cities with good airports: Chicago, LA, London, etc. They never seemed to have any anxiety about parochialism, despite the narrowness of their experiences and the reality of their ignorance about others. On the other hand, as much fun as it is to look down on the parochialism of Manhattan, there is a very real sense in which NYC is the hub of the world in a way that Orem — no matter how vigorously triumphalist one seeks to become about one’s parochialism — never can be.

    It seems to me that there is a sense in which everyone is parochial. The question is at least in part about the intellectual and cultural self-confidence of the parochialism. There is a sense in which the purely critical stance towards ones origins sap one of cultural self-confidence. Genarally speaking this story gets told in happy terms. The loss of cultural self-confidence is a mark of increased sophistication, nuance, self-awareness, knowledge, etc. I am actually very sympathetic to this way of looking at things. I do think that self-awareness and self-criticism are marks of sophistication, and I think that part of getting an education is to understand the intellectual backwardness of, for example, most of what is published by Deseret Book. (Although not all.)

    I found the Keats poem striking because it recognized that the self-confidence of parochialism is not simply narrowness or ignorance or the halcyon world of pre-critical thought. It is also the basis for creation and accomplishment. Indeed, there is a sense in which to truely create one must have daring and self-confidence. Keats recognized that parochialism itself can be a source of this self-confidence: “great verse unto a little clan” and the “old vigour.” The trick is to maintain the virtues of self-awareness, self-criticism, sophistication, etc. while also retaining the self-confidence to write great verse. Of course, at the end of the day I suspect that most of us simply don’t have it in us to write great verse, which is also just fine. The fault for this, however, lies in the poet rather than the smallness of the clan. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

  16. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    Nate, the difference between the parochial NY’ers and the parochial Utahns is that a great many more people want to be parochial like the NY’ers are parochial, but almost nobody wants to be parochial like Utahns are perceived as being. And I have to admit, when people who know that I’m Mormon ask me whether I’m from Utah, I tend to react as though they’ve asked me if I have VD. (Just to be clear: I’m from the Washington, DC area.)

    Bertrand Russell once commented that “Our age is the most parochial since Homer…. We imagine ourselves at the apex of intelligence, and cannot believe that the quaint clothes and cumbrous phrases of former times can have invested people and thoughts that are still worthy of our attention.” He continues:

    I read some years ago a contemptuous review of a book by Santayana, mentioning an essay on Hamlet “dated, in every sense, 1908″ — as if what has been discovered since then made any earlier appreciation of Shakespeare irrelevant and comparatively superficial. It did not occur to the reviewer that his review was ‘dated, in every sense, 1936′. Or perhaps this thought did occur to him, and filled him with satisfaction.

    I thought of this because you mentioned pride in parochialism. I think that glib self-satisfaction is a more severe problem than the self-conscious drive to understand the ways of the larger world–larger in space and in time.

  17. MLU on September 19, 2006 at 10:52 pm

    . . .there is a sense in which to truely create one must have daring and self-confidence. Keats recognized that parochialism itself can be a source of this self-confidence. . .

    In a sense, yes, but I doubt this sort of thing matters much. Back in school the self-confident kids who managed to dominate public attention also seemed, usually, to be a bit unaware–parochial, if you will. A lot like many famous people in the grown up world.

    The hunger to be the focus of attention is likely to be more easily satisfied if you aren’t too sophisticated or too aware of your limitations, of the many ways in which you may not have much better to offer than many others. If you want to be famous for what you say, the way might seem easier if you’re a bit ignorant.

    But fame is one thing and the power “to truly create” is something else. There will always be a shortage of fame though there need be no shortage of creativity.

    It’s rather nice, I think, that we’re leaving behind the age when publishing opportunities and time to create are rare privileges. We don’t need more New York Times bestselling authors or more New Yorker writers–two or three of those are all we have ever needed–but we do need more writers creating great family and community literature. Who is going to read all the family history that is being written? For what purpose is it being written? Surely not for fame.

    I think we are going to disentangle our understanding of great literature from the myth of the “great” artist and I think that the disentangling will have quite a lot to do with seeing that saying something novel is not the gold standard. The real standard is saying something good and true–finding in our unique experiences insights that resonate with timelessness.

    Part of what I love about the church is that it is–in embryonic form–a society of writers and speakers. Though we have a ways to go, I am regularly impressed with the words I hear coming from humble people as they bear testimonies, bless babies, and open meetings with prayer. For many years I didn’t feel that way as I kept judging their utterances by standards I learned in lit crit classrooms. My loss. I now think I’m a bit less parochial.

    I quit publishing some years ago–mostly because of disillusionment. The audiences were just audiences, silly people attracted to the lights. I left behind some of my own fantasy, without much in the way of regret.

    But I haven’t quit writing. The most important literature I’ve created in the past few years have been these: a poem written to my wife for a wedding anniversary; a letter written to a son at war; a letter written to a county prosecutor explaining why justice and wisdom demanded that she defer prosecution on a felony charge against a young person I knew well that was, as a matter of law, a slam-dunk conviction. These were words that had power sufficient to the occasion. The time writing them was time in communion with that better world we only glimpse through a mirror darkly. The rewards for writing them were better than money or applause.

  18. Alison Moore Smith on September 20, 2006 at 12:09 am

    MDKI #13, very well (and carefully) said. I’d be interested to know what the Utah Mormonisms are that so embarrass you. That might help the discussion.

    Nate, Orem is the hub of the world. Go Bruins!

    The first time I experienced Utah-bashing was as a BYU student. It was inflicted by every Californian I ever met, as well as most of those from the upper half of the east coast (Connecticut excluded–don’t ask me why). Most of the people from other places seemed able to enjoy the wonderful things here–or at least remain positive as they endured the horror of Utah and Utahns.

    After college, my first experience with it came from an inactive (no, not “less active”) guy in Florida who mocked Utahns generally because too few of us had experienced the great enlightenment of being at a party with a room full of drunks. (I overcame this deficit at an OE department party the first week after we moved. How did I live without that?)

    MLU, thank you for the insights.

  19. Jim F. on September 20, 2006 at 12:35 am

    Russell (#6): I’ll have to look at the essay to recall whether I proposed a solution, but I doubt that I did.

  20. William Morris on September 20, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with your core assertion, Nate. But just to quibble a bit…

    You write:

    “Keats, weighed down by all of the tradition that rendered him supremely unparochial, envied those who stood at the beginning and created the verse to which even the carefully studied spontaneity of his Romanticism must allude.”

    How are Mormon authors not weighed down by this same tradition? Keats, after all, wasn’t an artistocrat. He was as much an upstart meritocrat as any of us. A professional (a surgeon) with literary aspirations. There have been some major twists and turns in the Western literary tradition since them, but as we’re all still (post)Romantics, we’re all working in the same vein.

    Yes, the verse to which he must allude. But on one level it’s a total cop out. The terms that he uses to describe these parochial poets — bards dying content on pleasant swards? — are so utterly romanticized (that’s not entirely a cheap pejorative — I’m not a Romantics-hater) that they completely drain these ancient poets of their fire and blood. And — what about his London? Parochial, messy London (esp. back in the day [as the kids say].

    Of course, I’ve never had much patience for Keats. Keats and Yeats are on your side, but William Blake is on mine [sorry, I had to do it, it's like a nervouse tic].

    Or to put it more bluntly, what would Keats think of living in a parochial sward dominated by the Seven Habits, scrapbooking, BYU football, fast-track capitalism, anti-UNism, NuSkin, Mollywood, etc. etc. It’s real easy [not easy, but still...] for me to take up the pen in homage and defense of my pioneer ancestors. Much more difficult to immerse myself in and draw upon the parochialisms of today’s Mormonism. Not that I’m necessarily against everything or anything in what I just listed, but Mormon parochialism has its sticky points for most everyone.

  21. Nate Oman on September 20, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    ” Mormon parochialism has its sticky points for most everyone.”

    Indeed. Two counter-quibbles: (1) Speak not sleightingly of BYU football. (2) Blake is mine. Go find your own late 18th century/earl 19th century limey poet. (BTW, Milton and Donne are mine too. Shakespeare is common property, and I haven’t really read any other English poets.)

  22. Nate Oman on September 20, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    Mormon authors as Mormon authors are not weighed down by much tradition at all for the simple reason that Mormons have not — in the grand scheme of things — done all that much yet. (Never forget how young Mormonism is.) Of course to the extent that Mormon authors are also something else (and they always are) like American authors, etc. etc. then they are weighed down by those traditions. Mormons are like Dante. He was weighed down by a huge classical tradition. On the other hand, there was virtually no Italian vernacular tradition with which he had to contend.

    (BTW, my point is not primarily about poetry. I was using the term poetry poetically. As a literary device, you know. Just part of my ongoing attempt to become a lit-crit flirt.)

  23. William Morris on September 20, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    countering your counter quibbles — 1) I was raised on BYU football. Robert Johnson (I think that was his name) and Vai Sikahema were my first sports heroes; I met Robbie Boscoe once. That said — Go Cal!

    2) Uh. Milton is common property — Orson F. Whitney assured of that. Blake is without a shadow of a doubt still mine. Donne is mine too, but I don’t mind sharing. Hopkins belongs to no one.

    Re #22: Excellent point. But I don’t think Mormons are quite like Dante. Or rather, we already have our founding, vernacular genius — Joseph Smith. And, yes, Mormonism is young, but it’s post-national culture young, post-postmodern young, post-Romanticism young. As Russell Arben Fox has pointed out, we’re really even an ethnos (and have become to some extent less so).

    Of course, much of the problem with Mormon cultural production is that it isn’t weighed down by tradition. We’re trailing and mimicing others instead of plundering their materials to create some new hybrid.

    Re the BTW — Of course. But if you are going to use a literary device in the service of a point about cultural production, then it’s inevitable that we’re going to want to look back through the device to see how it is being used.

  24. Mark Butler on September 20, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    I usually think of Mormonism as very, very old, as in thousands of millions of years old. But I readily agree that multi level marketing, the culture of strategic exploitation, and other annoying quirks of contemporary rabble rousers are not part of Mormonism at all, but incidents of time and circumstance.

  25. JKC on September 20, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    I think Hopkins (since William Morris brought him up) makes the best comment on parochialism (at least in a theological context) when he said:

    We guess; we clothe Thee, unseen King,
    With attributes we deem are meet;
    Each in his own imagining
    Sets up a shadow in Thy seat;
    Yet know not how our gifts to bring,
    Where seek Thee with unsandalled feet.

    I think the trick to avoid letting our parochialism devolve into some kind of cultural miopia is to recognize most of the time we are just guessing, and that we are “cloth[ing him] with attributes we deem are meet”–God created man in his image and man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.

    But I like the point that Nate is making here, that we shouldn’t let self-awareness of our parochialism lead us to self-loathing (in cultural terms). In other words, even if we are just “set[ting] up a shadow” we should still “seek [him] with unsandalled feet,” and with gusto. To put it in terms of cultural production, we should let our knowledge of worldly values increase our ability to respond to them in “great verse” rather than let it destroy our appreciation for our “little clan.”

  26. William Morris on September 20, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Fantastic, JKC. Thanks.

  27. S. P. Bailey on September 20, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Nate and William: coming to this late; considering who’s left, I guess I’ll take the Earl of Surrey (sigh).

    Nate: one of my favorite turns of phrase in bloggernacle history: “[the] aura of Orem.”

    Everybody: I agree with the general notions that we enjoy a young tradition’s freedom while being able to draw upon much older traditions’ riches. The remoteness or reputation for backwardness or lack of sophistication of one’s tribe may not be a fatal handicap. But what about indifference (from inside and out) to one’s tribe’s cultural production? If a tree grows in the desert, and no one is there to rest beneath it, does it cast shade?

  28. Nate Oman on September 20, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    William: Stop being greedy. As a certifiable lit crit jock, you have lots and lots of poets to choose from. As a plodding lawyer, however, I have very few. Blake and Donne are mine. I’m willing to share Milton. As for Hopkins, I will not stop thumbing past him in my Oxford Book of English Verse.

  29. William Morris on September 20, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    Ah, but I’m not a certifiable lit crit jock. I stopped moving up the academic ladder exactly because my work was turning poetical, (psuedo)visionary and (sloppily so) mystical. Blake is all I have left.

    What would a lawyer want with Blake anyway?

  30. Alison Moore Smith on September 20, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    Gary Sheide.

    How come no one has claimed Janice Kapp Perry?

  31. Adam Greenwood on September 20, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    No one has the hubris to claim JKP. She’s for the ages.

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