Skip to content

Craft & Mechanics of Prose

As stumbling is the motion of all skating, so skating is the motion of all imagining: picturing requires “a pitch / Beyond our usual hold upon ourselves.” When the sound of sledding or skating is given onomatopoetically, it is usually given as a hissing sound—“We hissed along the polished ice in games,” says Wordsworth—or a schushshshing sound, or swishshshshing, or wishshshing, which is to say that the word “wishing” is itself onomatopoetic for the quality of motion that happens in imagining, the motion of gliding without resistance. In wishing, all moving pictures move as though on ice, sliding and gliding, as though there were no resistance, as though the proper mode of all verbs were the passive one where the question of agency, of inside and outside, of composing and taking dictation, has fallen into irrelevance. So an originary genius, William Blake, can see himself as a Secretary reverentially following instructions, and towering John Milton forever sits on the schoolroom chair where, as a young child, he was given his first Latin word to conjugate, “Musa, Musae, Musam.”

—Elaine Scarry, Dreaming by the Book

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.