Smyth 2012

From Whiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Smyth, Adam. "'Shreds of holiness': George Herbert, Little Gidding, and Cutting Up Texts in EArly Modern England." English Literary Renaissance 42.3 (2012): 452-481.

Herbert, "Paradise" -- pruning to foment spiritual growth

"The seeming paradox—that cutting heals; that destruction yields growth; that snipping away letters produces meaning—registers a broader preoccupation with cutting and creativity that runs across much of Herbert’s poetry, and across early modern literary culture more generally." (454)

"Herbert’s writing took place within, and found some of its bearings from, a reading culture in which the consumption of texts was regu- larly accompanied by the cutting up of printed and manuscript pages." (455)

cutting as "a potentially quotidian mode of textual consumption" (459)

"Since a text was often imagined as an assemblage of pieces, which might be crumbled, or shredded, into its constituent parts, the act of cutting was always at least implicit. This willingness to cut also reflects the fact that the coherent, bound, unannotated, “complete” printed book, with which modern biblio- graphical culture has been fixated, was not yet the dominant medium for conveying text." (461)

"new-found-out way" quote -- "John Ferrar’s description expresses a sense of both the novelty and the technical sophistication of the process of harmony production: 'this new-found-out way'" (467)

"For book historians accustomed to narratives linking print with fixity and the establishment of a stable literary canon, these cut-and- paste Gospels convey the very opposite: a willingness to dismantle and reorder printed Bibles. The Harmonies are a response to the culture and technology of the printing press by skilled amateur book-makers, who converted printed books back into unique texts. To read these Harmonies today is to experience a kind of twin-pull: a sense of the intricacy and completeness of these volumes, but also an awareness of the cutting and pulling part that lies behind the assembling. The Harmonies are poised awkwardly on the border of destruction and creation, and the creativity at work at Little Gidding rests on a prior act of cutting apart." (467)

Pepys prints were once thought to be "defaced by an iconoclase" (qtd 467)

"some opening tendencies for this culture of scissors and knives":

  1. "cutting up texts is not destruction" (468)
  2. "cutting is a form of writing" (469)
  3. "cutting and the pursuit of slowness" (469)
  4. "cutting and ideology" (470) -- e.g.g "for Gibson, cutting is a revisionist technology" (see Smyth 2004)
  5. "cutting and inventio" (471)
  6. "cutting and spatialized poems" (473)
  7. "words as things that can be broken apart and remade" (476)
  8. "the book not as surface but space" (477)

quotes "dreadful monuments of misdirected labour" -- "Such criticism also needs to consider how writing works when it proceeds through cutting. Such a process of assessment can help to overturn the centuries-long trivialization of the labor of Anna and Mary Collett at Little Gidding -- artists hitherto seen as little more than mute enacters of thier uncle's great vision -- and, more broadly, to bring to critical prominence a culture of cutting that seems to have been part of the reading and writing experience of early modern England." (480-1)