Commentaries on Unknown Texts: On Morton Bloomfield and Friedrich Nietzsche
A brief critical history of Bloomfield’s statement that reading PPl ‘is like reading a commentary on an unknown text’, attending ‘to the problem of form as an “unknown” and unknowable logic, not a genre, horizon of expectation, or product of close reading, but a structuring principle that precedes genre, dream content, and putative sources to the poem’ (p. 25). In context, the sentence ‘seems barely to be about commentary as we practice it in line-by-line glosses and the application of sharp elbows to cruxes needing busting’ (p. 28). John Alford and Anne Middleton rightly epitomize Bloomfield’s idea. It is perhaps a surprise that the latter ‘adopts the ideas of Bloomfield the literary theorist, and not Bloomfield the Langlandian, and that Middleton’s choice of Bloomfield, as it were, explains her move from commentary to “episode”‘ (p. 31)—which is Bloomfield’s move as well. When he wrote about the ‘commentary on an unknown text’ he was ventriloquizing Nietzsche, who, having been ‘fascinated with dreams as a mode of contemplative knowing and temporal folding or “untimely” history’, is very pertinent to a discussion of L (p. 33). PPl is the ‘experience’ of Will’s wanderings, but to plumb any deeper the depths of that experience is to ‘enter the dim world of “unknown” texts, unknown not because one cannot find sources behind L’s lines (indeed one can) but because the poet never illuminates the architecture of his breathtaking art’ (p. 35).
YLS, 25 (2011), 25-35.