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· Summary Judgments: The Art of Middle Passages ·

I should be celebrating my birthday here, but I'm in something of a blue funk. My home computer just failed on me, media-wise. If you know how to get free ZoneAlarm to stop locking up my server, send me word. In the meantime, back to some more ordinary indexing of the "consciousness of mediation."

That's my weblog theme, since as Geoffrey Hartman avers on my About page, "Style is an index of how the writer deals with the consciousness of mediation. Style is not cognitive only; it is also recognitive."

In some self-serving recognition of that view, I thought today to indicate two of my favorite YGS posts, and the text of my all-time favorite YGS passage. I'll try to be concise.

My two posts are easy:

  • In honor of my Norwegian heritage, with my late mother playing a critical role, is Syttende Mai: L. A. Style, an example of what I call a "link delivery system" — mucking around in mediocre prose just to link at last to a doubly apropos celebration of "freedom."
  • And in honor of my scholarship, with a triple mixture of philosophy, politics, and poetry, is Wilsonian Democracy, Finnish-Style: To the Finland Station, an example of what I call a "link slip system" — slipping over some needed links to mark, on Kalevala Day, the yet unfinished work of "democracy."

So what's my favorite YGS passage? From Aldo Leopold: Good Oak, Good Cedar, Good History, this paragraph, marking the recurring struggle faced in one's occasionally crossing from an old place to a new:

What Leopold has happily set me to thinking about today [December 13, 2002] is a famous passage near the end of "February." Leopold reflects on the tools of good history in it — and meditates simply and deeply on a glowing oak on his andirons, one cut, bucked, and split from an eighty-ring giant scarred by lightening and transecting, twice, American history from 1945 to 1865. He considers especially the environmental-geographical, not political, history of his oak, and dwells, at last, on the aforementioned tools making good wood of it. It is to these tools — "requisite to good oak, and to good history," as he says — that he points: namely, the saw, the wedge, and the axe.

Now I'll let you judge why so few words, happily indeed, matter so much to me today.

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Those words matter, dear Styles — our "acknowledged legislator" of the word, to paraphrase both you and Shelley — because the saw, the wedge, and the axe are exactly the tools with which we shape our language.

And, to think of it, perhaps to shape other aspects of our joint cultural heritage as well.

Posted by loretta Markle on October 4, 2005 01:53 PM


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