I am plodding my way through the September 30th issue of The New Yorker, and have grown increasingly dismayed at how muddled it's left me. Although Larissa MacFarquhar's portrait of Harold Bloom had me straining to understand from paragraph 2--normally a sign that it's time to move on to the next article--I forced my way through it, rereading over and over whatever passages I didn't get straightaway, like this one:
'A poem, Bloom wrote, was not an "overcoming of anxiety" but "an achieved anxiety." The struggle for meaning was the only meaning to be had. What's more, there was nothing sexual, or even psychological, about Bloom's theory. Bloom placed enormous emphasis on the difference between the poet-as-poet--what he called the "aboriginal poetic self"--and the human being who wrote poetry. "Anxiety" was not a psychological term. It was purely literary, having only to do with the relationship between one poem and another.'
I've finally moved on to Jonathan Franzen's piece in praise of difficult prose, and while it feels like slightly easier going, I still find myself grasping at his words, needing to work them over in my head again and again until they fall clear.
All of which has left me a bit depressed. Have I strayed so far from my academic past that I can no longer read even the lightest of literary theory without wanting to tear out my hair? Has my brain deteriorated so much from those days when I could sit in Mr. Chang's postcolonial postmodernism class and not only understand the concepts being bandied about but also throw thoughts of my own into the mix? Have years of writing basic instructional text completely ruined me for any sort of higher intellectual pursuit?
This terrifies me. I don't want my mind to go (sometimes it seems like it's all I have). I don't want to have to battle my way through The New Yorker (Harper's is one thing, but TNY?). I don't want to find myself capable of only discourse on page layouts and information flow, button naming conventions and standardized terminology. I want back what I was so sure I once had, and prized.