Freshman writing led me into the humanities. I attended a STEM-centric high school and wanted to be a hacker, mathematician, physicist, or linguist. In actuality, I spent more time playing the cello, and was quite serious about becoming a professional musician. For now, I will minimize the tension I experienced in weighing these multiple pursuits to say that the separate fields had a certain unity. Both music and the sciences involved the terms “genius” and “virtuosic” skill.

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The Lyric Tense

Since these cases of shifting tenses and other varieties of linguistic play are often said to mark the spots where these narratives most resemble lyric, one vital difference ought immediately to come clear: lyric discourse, unlike narrative, has no programmatic deictic movement, no hierarchic association of event and utterance that we can map and predict. It has no ready formula for process that corresponds to the narrative's heaping-up of perfect verbs and anaphoric deictics, or its postponement of the speaking present. Instead of hurrying toward it but deferring it, lyric often sees that here and now burst into the discourse spontaneously, abruptly; the speaking present, when it claims enough textual ground, may come into identity with the temporal dimension that most narratives keep at two removes, namely the reader's own present.

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The Lyric Name


hat does the “lyric” in “lyric poetry” mean? Here’s a passage from Allen Grossman’s Summa Lyrica: A Primer of the Commonplaces in Speculative Poetics:

1.3    The structural definition of the lyric is “that poetic situation in which there is one speaking person, who is nameless or to whom we assign the name of the author.” (6.4)  […]

Note the following (Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, p. 366):

Lyric: A literary genre characterized by the assumed concealment of the audience from the poet and by the predominance of an associational rhythm distinguishable both from recurrent meter and from semantic or prose rhythm.
Frye's "concealment of the audience from the poet" is an abbreviation of Mill on overhearing (cited at 16.7). The idea of "associational rhythm" is a reference to the fact of lyric as the imitation of man alone, either as he is alone in himself, or as he might be alone before or after society.

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