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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Deconstructing Stevens' "Six Significant Landscapes"  

2009-05-19 00:27:42|  分类: 后结构理论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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A Deconstructive Reading of Wallace Stevens’

“Six Significant Landscapes”*

Zhang Zaixin

 (An outline)

*[Inspired by Professor Qian Zhaoming’s lecture “Transpacific American Literature” on Chinese elements in American literature, 20 June 2007, BFSU]

l  Locating undecidables (observer/observed, mind/body, male/female)

l  Reading for female discourse (female obscurity as the unconscious or precondition that defines the male order)

l  Purpose: to search for undecidables not to diminish the artistry of any work, but to indicate intrinsic contradictions as a fundamental feature of the text

Six Significant Landscapes

Wallace Stevens

[From Harmonium, 1923]

I
       An old man sits  

In the shadow of a pine tree
       In China. [speaker’s point of view – the old man being observed]

He sees larkspur,[1] [interesting plant]
       Blue and white, [blue and white – a symbol of chastity]

At the edge of the shadow,  [in sunlight/moonlight?]
       Move in the wind. [old man’s point of view – observer]

His beard moves in the wind.

The pine tree moves in the wind.

Thus water flows

Over weeds.   [undecidable point of view]

[undecidables: day/night (male/female), observer/observed, old man as observer and being observed by speaker and himself]
      

II
       The night is of the colour       [Kristeva – colors]

Of a woman's arm:

Night, the female,

Obscure,                                  [obscurity of woman]

Fragrant and supple,

Conceals herself.                     [hidden meaning]

A pool shines,

Like a bracelet

Shaken in a dance.            [Kristeva – rhythms, movements]
[Night/female, the color of night: woman’s arm]

III

I measure myself

Against a tall tree.

I find that I am much taller,

For I reach right up to the sun,          [implying mind vs. body]

With my eye;

And I reach to the shore of the sea   [implying mind vs. body]

With my ear.

Nevertheless, I dislike

The way ants crawl

In and out of my shadow.            

[Body limited in the space of my shadow, but extended by my senses; body and shadow vs. sunlight; sun in “my” consciousness, during “my” waking hours] [Sun/day/male; undecidable: superiority of mind over body?]
      

IV

When my dream was near the moon, [Moon in the unconscious mind]

The white folds of its gown

Filled with yellow light.

The soles of its feet

Grew red.

Its hair filled

With certain blue crystallizations

From stars,

Not far off.

[Moon personified as female body in the unconscious; mind not free from the influence of body; starlight as male, the moon (female) with blue-tinted hair – a male feature from stars; the (female) moon emits light of its own (white, yellow, red) and with a little (male) blue ornament (starlight reflection); the dark shadows on the moon are turned into white (light and innocence), yellow (the sun and its generative powers), and red (love, passion, and fertility)—a combination of both male and female qualities]

 

V

Not all the knives of the lamp-posts, [Ambivalence: “knives” as beams of light from the lamp-posts? Shadows of the lamp-posts in sunlight or moonlight?]

Nor the chisels of the long streets,   [male images] [“chisels of the long streets” (driven by “mallets” of domes and towers) cutting across blocks of buildings]

Nor the mallets[2] of the domes [female image]

And high towers,

Can carve

What one star can carve, [Night or day? The sun is also a star]

Shining through the grape-leaves. [Hyperbole if it is a star]

[1. “one star” as the sun – male superiority. 2. Grape-leaf patterns of starlight on the ground, “carved” by “one star” – carvings by knives and chisels (having lost their male dominance at night), if not comparable with one star, much less with the moon; colors of night: starlight (male) and moonlight (female, obscure, hidden from but dominating the text) plus starlight reflected on it]

 

VI

Rationalists, wearing square hats,   

Think, in square rooms,                      

Looking at the floor,

Looking at the ceiling.

They confine themselves

To right-angled triangles.

[Upward triangle – symbol of male sexuality, downward triangle – female sexuality - “square” here symbolic of “rationality” – right-angledness as rational and masculine - “square” equals two “right-angled triangles” – (male) rationality shaped by both male and female thinking]

If they tried rhomboids,[3]  [Other than “square”]

Cones, waving lines, ellipses[4] –  [Circle: both sun and moon]

As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon –

Rationalists would wear sombreros.[5]

 

[Source: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-sombrero.htm]:

The word sombrero comes from the Spanish word for shade, "sombre." [It echoes the “shadow” in stanza 1 (undecidable) and stanza 3 (in the sun)]

Perhaps vaqueros [cowboys], the noble riders of sleek horses, developed the sombrero along with other unique aspects of their uniform. For them, the sombrero was a symbol of masculinity, power, and agility.
[(1) Square/circle: limited/unlimited, earth/heaven, matter/spirit, static/dynamic. (2) Rationalists (who have confined themselves to male squares, which are themselves male/female right-angled triangles) need to think in “circles” (both sun and moon) and in wavy lines of the half-moon (female). Rationalists characterized by both male and female, represented by the sombrero—a high-crowned hat and a very wide brim—a male symbol with a female connotation.]

 



[1] a plant with blue, pink, or white flowers with slender spikes at the base

[2] a hammer with a large wooden head

[3] a parallelogram with no right angels and with adjacent sides of unequal length. It resembles a rectangle but does not have 90° angles.

[4] oval

[5] a high-crowned hat with a very wide brim worn especially in the Southwest and Mexico

 

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