The Easy Allusiveness of Literacy

Dubuffet Butterfly

From Pale Fire:

Lines 671-672: The Untamed Seahorse

See Browning’s My Last Duchess.
See it and condemn the fashionable device of entitling a collection of essays or a volume of poetry—or a long poem, alas—with a phrase lifted from a more or less celebrated poetical work of the past. Such titles possess a specious glamor acceptable maybe in the names of vintage wines and plump courtesans but only degrading in regard to the talent that substitutes the easy allusiveness of literacy for original fancy and shifts onto a bust’s shoulders the responsibility for ornateness since anybody can flip through a Midsummer- Night’s Dream or Romeo and Juliet, or, perhaps, the Sonnets and take his pick.

Previously: Terence Koh and Morrissey: Have I Failed?

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