Document Type

Letter to the Editor


The three "close readings" described in the March 1978 Editor's Column were introduced with this line from Marianne Moore: "we do not admire what we cannot understand." The proposition is, of course, as patently false to experience as is Keats's at the end of the "Ode on a Grecian Urn." We often admire exceedingly what we do not understand, precisely because we do not understand it. This is as true of literary criticism as of religious revelation (the two activities having become strangely similar these days), and one of the three "close readings" referred to is a significant case in point. I admire Geoffrey Hartman's article "Blessing the Torrent: On Wordsworth's Later Style" (PMLA, 93 [1978], 196-204) because, as one of the specialist readers noted, it seems to "open perspectives." I am haunted by the possibility, however, that my admiration is naive and that what I would believe is sublimity of thought may be, in part at least, ingenious confusion.