Monday, January 18, 2010

while the syllabus prints

Winter break is nearly over. I'm listening to the gears of the printer wear thin, I'm cursing the comp department for making us march too-far in the slush to make photocopies (having one in the same building can spoil a person so, and I don't get up early very well--and this class will have me rising before the sun this winter), and my syllabus is nearly done. I've winnowed it to six hearty pages, two and a half of which is the daily schedule, so much in the spirit of covering-all-bases.

I've been working at chipping away at my stack of books half-read, that sloppy bedside collection. I finished Doctor Zhivago, part of my winter of Russian literature, and I confess, I didn't mind those sprawling descriptions of snowy landscape, the feeling of being pent-up indoors with nothing but potatoes and vodka, and I especially appreciated that later manic passage where Zhivago can only reverse his days and nights in order to write poetry, but overall, it was a bit of a plodding experience. I have the 2002 British miniseries adaptation being sent here, which may help straighten out some of my plot / character confusions.

From these old, completed poems, he went on to others that he had begun and left unfinished, getting into their spirit and sketching the sequels, though without the slightest hope of finishing them now. Finally getting his stride and carried away, he started on a new poem.

After two or three stanzas and several images by which he himself was struck, his work took possession of him and he felt the approach of what is called inspiration. At such moments the relation of the forces that determine artistic creation is, as it were, reversed. The dominant thing is no longer the state of mind the artist seeks to express but the language in which he wants to express it. Language, the home and receptacle of beauty and meaning, itself begins to think and speak for man and turns wholly into music, not in terms of sonority but in terms of the impetuousness and power of its inward flow. Then, like the current of a mighty river polishing stones and turning wheels by its very movement, the flow of speech creates in passing, by virtue of its own laws, meter and rhythm and countless other relationships, which are as yet unexplored, insufficiently recognized, and unnamed.

At such moments Yurii Andreievich felt that the main part of the work was being done not by him but by a superior power which was above him and directed him, namely the movement of universal thought and poetry in its present historical stage and the one to come. And he felt himself to be only the occasion, the fulcrum, needed to make this movement possible.

This feeling relieved him for a time of self-reproach, of his dissatisfaction with himself, of the sense of his own insignificance.
Pasternak, Boris. Doctor Zhivago. New York: Pantheon Books, 1958. 437.


Denise | Chez Danisse said...

Oh, the bedside collection... Best of luck with your new semester.

Jessie Carty said...

have a great semester :)

i'm trying to finish up "Olive Kitteridge" and "Myths to Live By" before starting anything new but I really am craving something new so I have a feeling I'll be dipping into my stack of books very soon!