This Poem was Written Only For People Who Can Pronounce and Define Quinquereme

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"Just as physical setting influences characters, so do historical and cultural conditions and assumptions. O'Connor's 'First Confession' is written for an audience of readers who understand the role of the Catholic Church in twentieth-century Irish life" (Roberts 110).

This was especially comforting to read, as it pointed out how some literature is written for a specific audience.  Though others can, obviously, read the work, they may not experience the same level of appreciation for the message as the intended audience.  For example, how many of us were a bit baffled by "Cargoes"?  Mansfield was writing for an audience that would understand his references to Quinquereme, Nineveh, and Ophir, and who would have more of a grasp on Biblical references, so an allusion to cedarwood, appes, and peacocks would not send them to google (OK, so nothing could really send them to google short of a time-machine, but I think the point was made).  

Aja writes about this poem in her blog entry, and how the imagery didn't seem up to the task of compensating for this generation's ignorance of the allusions used.  I agreed with her in a comment, because, frankly, three of the six words from the first line shot right over my head.  However, this does not mean that "Cargoes" is an obsolete poem.  It may be limited in ways poems that talk about more general things are not, but it is not worthless in our time.  With a little research, the poem was accessible.  Dr. Jerz also comments on Aja's blog, and advises us to keep reading to add to our store of knowledge, so that we can appreciate even more literature.  It would be a shame if only poems that cited events from our current time could be read and understood.   

 

2 Comments

You mean you can't pronounce and define Quinquereme? How strange!

I also commented on Aja's blog saying I felt like I was able to still grasp an understanding of the poem, but probably not the intended meaning. But, as we've discussed countless times, a poet's work belongs to the readers, as does the interpretation. I didn't know what half the words meant, but I thought they just sounded like important things, which lead me to my own interpretation regarding society reflected in this poem.

Josie Rush said:

Yeah, I know, I'm ashamed that I can't pronounce Quinquereme...but what can you do?

I agree that you can still understand the poem more or less; the general feeling/meaning seems to still be obtainable. Though, as you said, we probably strayed a little from the intended meaning. I don't think that's a bad thing, really, because (again, as you said...lol) "a poet's work belongs to the readers, as does the interpretation."
Honestly, despite all of this, the poem still left a bad taste in my mouth. I had the same sensation of a mental void that I get when I miss out on an inside joke. Literature is just more exciting when you can understand the allusions. Which is really just another reason to read as much as possible.

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