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This report is taken from PN Review 233, Volume 43 Number 3, January - February 2017.

Rough Notes for One or Two Undelivered Lectures on T. S. Eliot’s Dante (4) Frank Kuppner
41. A grim position to be forced into, indeed! At the heart of this, I suppose, there lies some sort of aut Caesar aut nihil principle at work. It’s all or nothing – either 100% or stark zero – and to the extent that we cannot think ourselves into the conceptual or emotional systems that the poet himself was inhabiting and writing out of, we shall necessarily be (as it were) unwittingly filling in the blanks with inappropriate or inequivalent matter drawn from [no doubt inferior] mental systems of our own.

42. Of course, one also has the option – very commonly resorted to, I should think – of simply leaving the blanks blank and going elsewhere for one’s spiritual, recreational or intellectual sustenance. There are, after all, degrees of affinity, as of so much else, and, although no-one is getting everything right all the time, even a brief investigation, done in good faith, of surface aspects lying more or less immediately to hand will usually be enough to furnish us with some clues to help us as we try to estimate in advance whether this particular project is likely to be worth proceeding with, or is shaping up to be something of a waste of effort. Not infallibly so, no doubt – but then: who (apart from the obvious exception) is ever infallible about anything? Is this particular example of ever more ancient articulation worth persevering with? And what then about this resonant piece of high-class rhetorical prestidigitation?

43. At which ...

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