notes on lyric 10 and last for now
|My two un-comprehensive and provisional cents:|
What’s characteristic of lyric isn’t “musicality” per se, but a relationship between the musicality of the text and its having been produced by a “subject.” That relationship can be posited explicitly or implicitly, textually or contextually, and can take various forms. In the most traditional case, the poem is conceived of and treated as (somewhat metaphorically) “sung” by the poet; that relationship, and the conceptual framework that underlies it, brings along with it strong though defeasible connotations of self-expression.
One way that modernist and subsequent poetries tend to complicate this picture (which may be a caricature) is by raising doubts about the autonomy or coherence of the language-producing subject. (These doubts can lie in the theoretical background, but the poetic text can also display that they are on the table by various techniques, including grammatical fragmentation, collage/montage effects, suppression of the word “I,” and the creation of texts that are difficult to interpret as emanating from a unified subject position.) To write out of a nuanced or troubled account of the subject (or self) and how it is constituted is not necessarily to deny its function, or even its ontological status; hence the persistence of “lyric subjectivity.” But if the singer isn’t quite what we once thought she was, in what sense do we are we still privy to her “song”? I don’t mean to suggest any specific answer, or close off any possible answers, but it does seem like this is a productive question: How, given a more complex view of subjectivity or self-expression, are we now to understand the musicality of the lyric text? (This is a question for poetic practice as well as interpretation.)
I must admit that I would like to see more care and less handwaving in accounts of exactly what it is to speak of a decentered, fragmented, or somehow "fictional" self than one sometimes encounters -- I think that would help make these questions less inchoate. Also, I don't mean to ignore the question of what "political possibility" or related categories have to do with all this; it might well be the most important issue, but by the same token, one that's too complicated to admit of a facile comment.