Lit language [Chronicles of DisInfection, jan2016]


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Under the pressure of lit devices, ordinary language was intensified, condensed, twisted, telescoped, drawn out, turned on its head. It was language ‘made strange’; and because of this estrangement, the very world was also suddenly made unfamiliar. In the routines of everyday speech, our perceptions of and responses to reality become stale, blunted, or, … ‘automatized’. Literature, by forcing us into a dramatic awareness of language, refreshes these habitual responses and renders objects more ‘perceptible’. – “Literary Theory” p.3 T. Eagleton

Hmmmm, yes and no…yo, a certain yoness. Of course this is only one of the many theories of lit Eagleton considers but lemme for argument’s sake take it at face value. Yes, ordinary language is ideally intensified, into some sort of [aesthetic] prose: a language that draws attention to both the hidden [rare?] beauty of reality and language. It helps you see reality anew through a fresh remix of words; at the best of times this experience is immensely pleasing and, from behind musty pages, our hearts racing, eyes watering, we may exclaim ‘YAHHHS! That’s how I’ve been meaning to put it all my little life, dear yours truly!’ And then read on, greedily.

 

In fact what this type of literary language suggests is that, at no moment are you obliged to succumb to the colorless monopoly of cliches: a glob of imagination and language leaves every moment that came before coughing in the dirt. Well, ok, maybe not totally and all, but still enough so, aye? We become unblunted, unstaled, radically dejaded; the seen, the unseen and the unseeable touch, via prose, our soul’s pressure points. What more could one read for.

 

Unfortunately T.E. has put it so much better that this writer can only be absolved by adding some of his own mustard: the specific sort of “surplus benefit” that literary language brings to the perception of reality is not just the telescoping estrangement, the extra-perceptibility. Thanks to these it also brings amplified attention to under- and/or un-valued aspects of reality [and fiction, of course] exactly because we can now newly appreciate them in the light of nouveau language. And thus, in the presence of prose, there appears something in the thin guise of paradox: suspension of disbelief combined with amplified attention. [More prosaically: You pause your critical faculties at the exact moment you inhale and hold your breath to take a closer look.]

Then again, the entire concept of suspended disbelief could carry us further afield since quite a few people would justly point out that they do not come to a novel with any sort of belief [in what they are about to read], much less disbelief [in what they have come to in search of entertainment/edification/escape], which then needs to be suspended temporarily, etc.

 

So all of supra falls under the heading of “Yes”, as it is fairly easy to line up behind Eagleton as a yep-sayer. Then there is “No [way, Professor Gray]” …because literature, my dearest reader, is my primo escape-pod, my photon-speed starship away from planet reality, all that gravity-bound dross engendered by matter. Meaning over matter, my man. I don’t want language “to be made strange” because I’m checking out cis-planetary strangeness but because I have encountered, on the pan-universal pages at day’s end, the actually alien – sci-fi or not. Literature, seen from this relativistic ship, doesn’t just render objects more appreciable, it renders new objects altogether: unreality is made real, or at least readable.

I believe that if it were possible to scrap the whole of existing literature, all writers would find themselves inevitably producing something very close to SF … No other form of fiction has the vocabulary of ideas and images to deal with the present, let alone the future.J. G. Ballard

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About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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