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January 24, 2015

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Hmmm... what an amazing post. don't worry about the editing, don't. I think my husband would/will (?) love that formula. I, being the purely humanities person that I am, still struggle some with them.

Interesting discussion for a supposedly knowledgeable, but not really truly, literature phd. Sigh... I haven't really read Shakespeare, but I love poetry and, even more, I love love love the visual arts, particularly painting and music. But of course you're talking about words. That's a tough one. (song lyrics are word, though!)

Hotel Rwanda is not beautiful overall, but, many many years after I've seen it, there is something beautiful and true in it, yes, the kindness of that man saving those people. Beauty in the midst of horror.

I will have to keep on thinking about beauty and literature, and words. Great questions!

Oh very good. I really like your formula: phrasing, unfamiliarity, truth, goodness, receptivity. Yes.

I wonder if part of what stumped me was precisely that last one: receptivity. When asked which is the best? What is the most beautiful thing you've ever read? Then suddenly I feel put into a corner and less receptive to the charms of many works I otherwise love. For me that question itself limits the potential answers because the *most beautiful* would have to be a piece of literature which is especially perfect in all its parts. I read it not as the most beautiful phrase or line but as the most beautiful literary work.

So while Shakespeare has moments of exquisite phrasing, undoubtedly, and moments of soaring flight and moments of mystery and moments of delicious unfamiliarity, all of his plays also have moments that are more pedestrian, lines that fall flat or that I'm not particularly receptive to at a particular moment. Whereas a lyric poem, on the other hand, is short enough that it can strike you just so at a moment in time, all the parts, every phrase, every word, perfectly aligned and the straining toward revelation of divine beauty and goodness and truth all coming together like an exquisite explosion, a firework and a diamond and a rose all rolled into one.

I don't know maybe when you've come to be an expert in Shakespeare, completely immersed in the plays-- I'm vaguely recalling but can't quite recollect an interview, I think it was with Sir Patrick Stewart, maybe, or maybe not, some other actor whose been doing Shakespeare for his whole life since childhood, something he said about knowing the plays that well.... well, maybe when you are so familiar you can hold the entire play in your mind in the same way that I can hold an entire lyric poem, and see how it all works together as one harmonious perfection, maybe then I'd be able to pick one of his plays as the most beautiful thing I've ever read.

I like this equation.

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