Thursday, April 07, 2005

Stalinist historiography

In an exercise in Soviet Fifties-style rewriting of history, I've decided to delete last month's post commenting on the Louis Zukofsky conference at the University of Chicago last November. I think I stand by much that I said there, but I'm uncomfortable with the rather petulant tone and with the way the post may have misrepresented the positions and statements of some of those present. The whole conference was a grand event, small enough to be intimate and large enough to have a sense of critical mass, and above all else it had the kind of focus that one rarely encounters in academic gatherings.

The question of "greatness" I suppose remains out there, and one of the things that made the Chicago party interesting was precisely the fact that there were people up front who were willing to read Zukofsky critically – to question his importance or value, not to take it for granted – rather than just analytically or ideologically. Do I think LZ is a "major" poet? do I think he's "grrreat" (as Tony the Tiger would say)? Well, the short answer would be "yes," but only if you stripped the terms of all of the canonical and pedagogical baggage that they've accumulated over the last however many decades. Which makes the short answer a long, long answer indeed.

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