Sunday, December 06, 2009

home stretch (trois)

In the thick of reading porfolios (portfolioi?) & writing, but this caught my eye, the first epigraph to Richard Kostelanetz's very excellent collection The Avant-Garde Tradition in Literature (Prometheus Books, 1982):
No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism.... The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order of the form of European or English literature will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.
Henri Peyre, The Failures of Criticism (1967)
Who would've thought that Kosty, way back in 1982, would be "reframing" texts right along with Kenny Goldsmith? Or that Henri Peyre'd be doing it in 1967, copying out a very famous passage of T. S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent" & publishing it under his own name?

Or maybe the compositors at Prometheus Books just slipped, losing a Peyre epigraph & attaching his name to the Eliot quotation.


tyrone said...

ya gotta love it!

Vance Maverick said...

Pretty sure it's not in the Peyre (using Google Books search).

Whether Kostelanetz wrote it or not (it might have been Pierre Menard), the prose is awesome. "Approved" is a marvelously crotchety word choice.