Re: Vic Flic's message on history

Joseph Townsend (
Fri, 22 Nov 1996 20:13:17 -0500

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Dear Vic Flic,

I agree that poetry is very valuable for understanding ones
context, and I would be far from trying to argue against the
promotion of it. I meant there was no better way than history not
that there weren't others just as valuable. It depends upon what
kind of "understanding" you are attempting to find. There are a
variety of forms and methods to "understanding." I think history and
poetry are both important. Still, I think ones understanding of
poetry is influenced by some form of thought about a past. Thus,
most poetic expression is helped by, at least, recent history.

Vic said,
"A New Critic would tell you that poetic "thought" is divorced from
all context except for that which exists intrinsically in the poem
itself. That a poem is in essence a world unto itself."

Joseph says,
It seems to me that just as no man is an island, a poem is placed in
context as well. I think, all forms of understanding originate after
sensory experience in the mind of a person. Hence, a poem is not "in
essence a world unto itself" because the poets thoughts and feelings
are influenced by context. The very process of putting thoughts into
language leads to this social influence.

Vic wrote, "first be careful with that evidence. And you still must
color in the gaps betw een the facts and that is where imagination
comes into play."

I write, I agree!!!

Hence, many people need history.

Vic wrote, "For what? Our physical survival is not dependent on it"

I write, "need" is a word that can be used a variety of different
ways. I should have clarified my use of it. I was stating that
many people need history for the purpose of fulfilling their desires
for a type of understanding. This, however, does not mean it is an
essential "need" in the sense that one will die without it. Yet, we
almost always conceputalize with some internal constructions of the
past. That is what I was trying to state.

Vic wrote,"Now whose particular point of view would that be? I'm not
sure I get what you're trying to say here. Is it that history adds to
our undersantding of the human condition? There are surely other
types of context other than historical."

Again, I do not think that studying history alone is enough. I was
only stating that it is important. As for the "point of view," I
would say that it is both from the point of view of the writer as
well as the reader. Although, I don't think history is limited to

Of course, history will never be a science per se. I did not claim
that history was completely accurate. I don't think there is such a
form of portrayal in any field. Rather, portrayals are only means of
understanding a particular form of understanding better. Without
explanation we have less of an understanding of these subjects. All
language, in a sense, reveals and conceals at the same time. That is
the nature of language and both history as well as poetry are
explorations through language. Yet, without either of these forms of
expression and thought the conceptual worlds that we are trapped in
would be far more limited in their abilities to conceive that small
part of reality that we can realize. Bias or no bias, we are better
off with them than without them.

Also, I think there are a variety of different degrees of emotional
attachment or revulsion to any particular linguistic symbolic
representation or concept expressed in language.

As for your argument that the newpapers have objective listings of
baseball scores and stock market figures, I don't think they are
objective. The baseball scores and stock market figures show a
variety of biases. The placement of the scores at the bottom or
along the sides of the paper may show the relative value these scores
have to other information. The scores are usually listed because the
paper editors think that the socres listed will interest some of the
subscribers to the paper. This often shows a form of bias through
exclusion and inclusion. Furthermore, often some of the scores will
have stories about the games on the same or next page. This shows a
bias in the paper if the reader scans the sports section of that
paper. A similar type of analysis can be used on the stock market

Perhaps, objectivity, in its purest state is not done at
all. Yet, the practical use of the concept does not lack merits. It
may be an imperfect means to an unobtainable end, but it is a
valuable tool in coming closer to a less emotion rendering portrayal
and analysis. The person is not finding "the answer," but instead "an
answer" that can and may be in further "construction" or in the
process of continuing reconceptualization. Some people find their best
means through historical study while others find it another way.
Still, it is valuable to explore in and out of fields of thought to
find more. Now do you have a clearer picture of my understanding
of history and its signifigance?

Thank you,
This is fun
Joseph S. Townsend

Yours in freedom,

Vic Flick

The only alternative (and his other possibilities)