Troublemaking Interpretations of Horation Ode
There exists debate of how one is to read Marvell's "Horation Ode," One of the most unexamined issues in the three essays, yet one which seems to be a presupposition for most of the argumentation that goes on between both parties, is Brooks's careful caveat early in his essay that his project is not to "reveal triumphantly that what it [Marvell's poem] really says is something quite opposed to what we have supposed it to be saying" ("Ode" 323). For Bush, what the poem is supposed to have said is key, for his argument will rest around such suppositions and commonalities, or unprejudiced readings as he might call it; and among his final arguments will be that "Marvell's poem means what it says" (348), which will be arrived at by looking at the poem in "its common and natural sense"(341). But Brooks is not necessarily strict in sticking to traditional interpretation, so it is intriguing he would begin with what we might call at this point an interpretational warning label to insure that the reader does not misinterpret him and think that he is trying to merely find a new interpretation for an old poem.
While he will later argue that the New Critic is indeed in debt to the historicist, and we might accept this initial warning as a part of that debt to "proper norms" (326), it is with other interests in mind that Brooks ends his "Notes on the Limits of'History' and the Limits of 'Criticism."' Invoking Matthew Arnold, Brooks concludes his essay dealing with Leslie Fielder's call to "interpret literature in relation to the rest of man's concerns" (qtd. in "Limits" 354). To this, Brooks is "in hearty agreement" ("Limits" 354), and with this ending it is clear that there are ...
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...es so many of his criticisms of Brooks in terms of how he looks for "desperate solutions" that stray from a common sense reading of the poem. This idea that the type of critic that Brooks advocates makes trouble for the type of interpretation established by a historical reading of the poem raises such questions as the role of the critic in a society, and whether this critic is obliged to make trouble or not, and who is to be the focus of his troublemaking energies.
Brooks, Cleanth. "Criticism and Literary History: Marvell's Horation Ode." Class Handout ENG 415. April 9th, 1996.
"Notes on the Limits of'History' and the Limits of ‘Criticism’." Class Handout ENG 415 April 9th, 1996.
Bush, Douglas. "Marvell's 'Horation Ode'." Class Handout ENG 415. April 9th, 1996.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge, 1990.