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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

So, how was it for you?

Never such tristesse! The post-mall swearing-in of President Obama has left the world collectively experiencing a disappointed lull. Did the earth move for you during Yo-Yo's sub-Star Wars turn? How about the poem?, which I could barely follow.

Odd, how the actual words seemed to stumble from the great man's mouth, as he swore on Lincoln's bible. Did you enjoy Reverend Warren's brimfire valediction? Still, the speech - though delivered at a rat-a-tat pace and with the solemnity of a News on the March announcement - was rhetorically and poetically superb - though apparently written in Starbucks.

The power of it, from a literary perspective, was in its use of allusion, allegory, intertextuality, and, symbolism. It was a truly multi-dimensional text, hyper-potent because the speaker's performance of the words had an uncanny echo in so many other aspects of the traditional spaces he was filling, and by his presence, changing forever - that is, the very monuments and buildings, the very geography, supplied his themes - from reference to the wintry Washington soldiers huddling by the Potomac, - to, as several commentators have already written, key figures, such as Lincoln, Kennedy, FDR, and King.

It was the Milton, then, not the Shakespeare, of all speeches - but it may be the most compelling, and dramatic, in Western history, rivalled only, perhaps, by those of Cicero, or Caesar. Simply put, Obama is dramatic in a way that usually only characters in great drama or poetry are - because his very presence signals immense change, and there is much to be put right. The suspense is immense, to be Cassius Clay about it.

I wonder how Harold Bloom reads all this canonicity and influence, these quotes upon quotes of older speeches, the use of ancient tropes, dusted off for new work. One yearns to have Walt Whitman around, to see this. Obama makes one feel that even that resurrection is almost possible.
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