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The Geography of the Imagination by Guy…

The Geography of the Imagination (1981)

by Guy Davenport

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The essays collected hear will point you to writers, poets, and artists that you must have a relationship with. Many are introductions to, or critiques of, the works of others; some are brief biographies; others seem to be simply exceptionally lucid and attentive forays into whatever Davenport was thinking about at the time.

It's difficult to describe this wide-ranging adn erudite collection, but I will say that, after reading all of it, I am left with the nagging desire to spend the rest of my life studying at Davenport's feet. Unfortunately, he's no longer with us, except in collections such as this.

I expect to read these essays over and over, as I try to extract what I can from my reading of the best of literature 9archaic and modern), because Davenport touches on so much, and ties so much of the best works together.

Os. ( )
1 vote Osbaldistone | May 21, 2009 |
I go back to this book when I am feeling too tired to read anything new, or feeling dull or complacent. Most of these essays involve making connections among writers and books and ideas, getting to the heart of a book I've never read in a way that gets me excited to pick it up. ( )
1 vote emilymcmc | May 21, 2007 |
includes best article ever on Wittgenstein, Erich Heller notwithstanding
1 vote reuchlin | Apr 15, 2007 |
While the backbone of this collection is its defense and decoding of the great modernists (Joyce, Pound) and early postmodernists (Zukofsky, Olson), the book also forays ceaselessly into all sorts of other areas: Dogon myth, Wittgenstein, Shaker aesthetics, hobbitry, the invention of the buttonhole, Stan Brakhage, and Indian arrowheads, to name but a few. Davenport's true genius is his ability to synthesize: he arranges these disparate subjects into a single staggering design so complete that the book seems to contain no digressions, only elaborations. A thrilling collection; highly recommended. ( )
2 vote jbushnell | Nov 14, 2006 |
When Guy Davenport died in Kentucky in January 2005, the United States lost one of its last great men of letters. The experience of reading The Geography of the Imagination is truly a geographic sort of rush-- a "Cortez-seeing-the-Pacific-for-the-first-time" feeling (yes, I *know* who it was, and you know why I'm saying Cortez-- and if you don't, you can find out in Davenport.) In his writing, erudition is worn so lightly it turns into a hang-glider-- to read these essays is to be reminded, palpably and unmistakably, what being learned is *for.*

His was a mind to which nothing was foreign. Davenport wrote fiction, poetry, art and music criticism, and literary essays of wide-ranging and never-failing fascination. His anecdotes from a lifetime of studying under those who he admired will inspire and make you guffaw; his surprising connections between cultural moments a thousand years apart will make you blink with wonder.

He will also show you how easy a difficult text is, and how difficult an easy one. Davenport's efforts to create public appreciation and support of poets beyond the mainstream was a labor of love and radical commitment, and every American reader of poetry is indebted to him. It was from Davenport that I first learned who Jonathan Williams and Robert Kelly were, and why to read Lorine Niedecker and Ronald Johnson. He championed the reading of Olson and Zukofsky and will, if you let him, open up Pound's "Cantos" for you in ways that leave mere *explication du texte* rusting on the side of the road.

Davenport had read everything-- read and digested. Not just "Robinson Crusoe," but its two (!) sequels; not just "Moby-Dick," but "Clarel"; not just Thoreau, but Agassiz, Audubon, Muir, and Lewis and Clark. He compared dozens of translations of Homer and himself rendered the poems of Archilochus, Sappho and others; he studied Chinese inspired by Pound and Fenollosa; for Anglo-Saxon he went to learn from J.R.R. Tolkien. His erudition was always at the service of his curiosity, and high- and low-brow meant nothing to him, decades before it was cool to deconstruct a television commercial. In a few pages, sometimes one, his thought may leap like a living spark from O. Henry to James Joyce to Walt Disney, from Charles Ives to Rimbaud to the Lone Ranger; and moreover-- what is all the more refreshing-- *never* with the cuteness or cleverness that poisons "cultural studies" with the malaise of the always-already-passe. Despite his unflagging chastisement of know-nothing anti-intellectualism and laziness, Davenport was an optimist in a way that used to be considered characteristically American; but his enthusiasm extended to everything, old-world, new-world, what may yet be and what never was.

This is to say, that Davenport's great learning was first of all gratitude, which-- glory be to God-- he expressed over and over again in irrepressibly articulate and unfenced prose. Now that he is gone, who is left so catholic in interest and intrepid in craft? There are still a few truly wide-ranging scholars who do write beautiful and soul-changing sentences: George Steiner, Roberto Calasso, Martha Nussbaum, Anne Carson.... but for sheer generosity married to such voracious self-education, making such song and argument as to shake the mind awake and make the heart glad, Davenport was sui generis. We shall not see his like again. ( )
6 vote skholiast | Jul 2, 2006 |
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The difference between the Parthenon and the World Trade Centre, between a French wine glass and a German beer mug, between Bach and John Philip Sousa, between Sophocles and Shakespeare, between a bicycle and a horse, though explicable by historical moment, necessity, and destiny, is before all a difference of imagination.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0865470014, Paperback)

In the 40 essays that constitute this collection, Guy Davenport, one of America's major literary critics, elucidates a range of literary history, encompassing literature, art, philosophy and music, from the ancients to the grand old men of modernism.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:53 -0400)

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