Professor Elaine Scarry|
"The Call to Poetry"
Marta Sutton Weeks Lecture
Stanford Humanities Center
Monday, February 4, 2008, 7:00 pm
Edited by Peter Y. Chou
Preface: Eavan Boland introduces Elaine Scarry, Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value for the Department of English at Harvard University. She quotes Elaine's 2002 Presidential Lecture at Stanford "Nine One One: Citizenship in Emergency": "the best wy to defend the country is to see something that we need to revise." (Stanford Report). Elaine Scarry writes about the body under torture and airplane crashes. She wants to tell the truth, to clear the path. She presents the ethical within the aesthetics. Her book The Body in Pain  is a definitive study of pain and inflicting pain. In a 2005 interview, she says "In political and moral life you must be aware of the pain of people whom you may never see." Elaine Scarry's Dreaming by the Book  won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism. What really shines out is that she refuses to be narrow. Today she'll talk about Seamus Heaney and Thomas Hardy in "The Call to Poetry".
None of the handbooks on poetry have "Call" in their lexicon. On one side of the heartbeat to poetry, there is no sound. On the other side, you have to supply it. But the call to poetry comes early in childhood. Wordsworth in his "Intimations to Immortality" celebrates the glory of early childhood, proclaiming the six-year old child to be the best Philosopher. Coleridge will rebuke Wordsworth for this viewpoint in granting wisdom to someone so young.
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