OE Poetry: The Wanderer

In live blogging this conference, I am following the conventions for conference blogging.

A Mind of Winter: A Comparative Approach to Wisdom in The Wanderer
Jason Lotz, Purdue Univ.
Winner of the Thomas Ohlgren Award for Best Graduate Student Essay in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

WS Klein “paths are … able to contain all our interpretations”
uses post-colonial “presents are able to contain all our suppositions”
traces parallels in Hamlet and Japanese film Okuribito (stigma of new job, caring for the dead- marginalized in society, isolated at home; plays cello and he and his father gather and exchange stones), also released in English as Departures.

Lotz agrees with other scholars that there is only one speaker in The Wanderer. He doesn’t, however, agree with the two part development or division of the poem mentioned in talks yesterday.

Three stages of development:
marginalized identity
identity through memory
new identity

Marginalized identity
l. 1-5 “the solitary one by enduring obtains favor”

l. 6-7 (first stage in process of becoming wise)
“so said the earth-stepper, mindful of hardship… of the fall of beloved kinsmen”

l. 12 “guard one’s self in one’s heart”

Restricted by exile he is in danger of depression, of losing control of his identity.

Identity through memory
What really devastates the wanderer is his memory.
Present misery based on memory.
Present condition merges with past experiences.
Marginalized by grief.

l. 64 of the wanderer after he wakes up
Rather than narrate his individual sufferings, describes widespread troubles and then says how to meet them.
“A man may not become wise until he experiences a number of winters in the world”

Wise man does not just derive wisdom from experience, but is able to live life wisely.
“Fate is fully fixed.”

New identity
Repetitive structure connects the speaker to the community of grief. This connection gives eternal consolation, if not secular joy.
Pulls one’s gaze from one’s suffering, allows one to look at others, suffering individual joins “a more productive conversation between past and present” and thus becomes again a member of the community.
Suffering is universal.

One who is suffering, grieving can move beyond the individual sorrow and take place in the community of grief.

Comparable works
Daigo (in Japanese movie) uses his experience with ritual of death in his job to allow him to honor and reconcile with his father, following his father’s death, and allows him to re-join his family from isolation by his re-connection with his pregnant wife.

Hamlet re-creates his identity through his relationship with the ghost and thus races into his tragedy.

Quality of memory changes. “in his mind” Changes his subjectivity, his thinking.

Communal subjectivity
in “Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens.
“One must have a mind of winter”
Relate to the heat goes cold proverb of yesterday’s presentation.

Okuribito opening scene:
peers into a snowstorm “When I was a child, winter did not seem so cold.”

Quoting from Wallace Stevens’ poem “Snow Man:”
“One must … have been cold a long time ….
not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind…
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

“Snow Man” offers the opportunity to become one with the cold.
Concerns of the greater community.
Must have the mind of winter to understand the exile’s path.

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