Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Shakespearean cadences of Sarah Palin

Sorry for the brief silence.

We were in Tübingen for a couple of days, where The Wife was attending an English literature conference. I wandered around town, drank too much coffee, and did manage to get a fair amount of reading done for one of the various projects I'm working on.

It was a brief visit, but Tübingen is a lovely city: I had intended a charming and amusing photo essay based on the images I managed to shoot with the camera in my phone, but they didn't turn out as well as I expected, so you'll have to miss out on that.

Although I suppose this one, taken at a store specialising in colourful hosiery, is relevant:

Which means something like: 'Choose colour: the USA is choosing it too.' (This plays on the fact that the verb 'wählen' can mean not only 'choose' but also 'elect' or 'vote'.)

In any case, my absentee ballot just arrived, and this has not only made me happy but also sent me scurrying off to catch up on some of the election news I missed while we were no longer able to mainline our broadband connection as and when we desired.

The I've found so far are probably those from literature professor (and apparent Obama voter) Camille Paglia about vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Paglia seems to have dropped off the public intellectual radar recently, at least compared to all the attention she got back in the 90s, and but for a post at LG&M highlighting her, uh, incisive wit, I wouldn't have known she writes a regular column for Salon.

I'm glad to see, though, that she can still pile up words like she used to! Indeed, her tendency to rambling incoherence and posing solipsism doesn't seem to have suffered one bit over the years.

Take it away, Camille!

When I watch Sarah Palin, I don't think sex -- I think Amazon warrior!

(You know, I have to admit that I don't 'think sex' either when I watch Palin... Oh, sorry for the interruption, you were pontificating...)

I admire her competitive spirit and her exuberant vitality, which borders on the supernormal. The question that keeps popping up for me is whether Palin, who was born in Idaho, could possibly be part Native American (as we know her husband is), which sometimes seems suggested by her strong facial contours. I have felt that same extraordinary energy and hyper-alertness billowing out from other women with Native American ancestry -- including two overpowering celebrity icons with whom I have worked.

I find the subtle mixture of non-sequitur and narcissism in the following to be especially tasty:

People who can't see how smart Palin is are trapped in their own narrow parochialism -- the tedious, hackneyed forms of their upper-middle-class syntax and vocabulary.

As someone whose first seven years were spent among Italian-American immigrants (I never met an elderly person who spoke English until we moved from Endicott to rural Oxford, New York, when I was in first grade), I am very used to understanding meaning through what might seem to others to be outlandish or fractured variations on standard English. Furthermore, I have spent virtually my entire teaching career (nearly four decades) in arts colleges, where the expressiveness of highly talented students in dance, music and the visual arts takes a hundred different forms. Finally, as a lover of poetry (my last book was about that), I savor every kind of experimentation with standard English -- beginning with Shakespeare, who was the greatest improviser of them all at a time when there were no grammar rules.

Yes, keep that in mind the next time you hear Palin speak off the cuff: note her flair for...Shakespearean linguistic improvisation.


There's more of that sort of thing if you can stand it (including something about feminism's need to 'circle back and reappropriate the ancient persona of the mother', Paglia finds herself making common cause with Obscene Desserts favourite Luce Irigaray) and if, perhaps, you take a particular joy in laughing at literature scholars.

'The value of Ivy League degrees, like sub-prime mortgages, has certainly been plummeting', Paglia (Yale, '72) observes.

And, doggone it, she certainly helps us all to understand why!

(Via LG&M and The G Spot, who -- like yours truly -- also seem to be trapped in narrow parochialism and the tedious, hackneyed forms of their upper-middle-class syntax and vocabulary.)

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