Abstract for Essay on Prynne, Philology, and Commentary

Rembrandt van Rijn, “A Scholar in His Study (‘Faust’)” [c. 1645]
“‘The review of struggle to fix the sense’: Speculations on Commentary and J.H. Prynne”

Abstract: The commentaries of the Cambridge poet-scholar, J.H. Prynne, represent a renovation of commentary as critical practice in English studies. Neither their interdisciplinarity nor their density is unique; critics as different as Erich Auerbach, Giorgio Agamben, Helen Vendler, and Jacques Derrida have shown what can be done with and through commentary. But Prynne’s commentary is of an extreme kind: a radicalized version of close reading that frames the poem as a locus of convergent and contradictory tendencies whose sedimentation supersedes both author and reader. Despite the brilliant adumbrations in the margins, the commentary retains its marginality by making the poem into a curriculum. Never has the aesthetic autonomy of the single poem been so challenged than by so intensely focusing on a single poem.

This was started years (and years and years) ago and finally buttoned up this morning! It’s been sent out for review…