To identify these frames the reader has to “walk,” so to speak, outside the text, in order to gather intertextual support (a quest for analogous “topoi,” themes or motives). I call these interpretative moves inferential walks: they are not mere whimsical initiatives on the part of the reader, but are elicited by discursive structures and foreseen by the whole textual strategy as indispensable components of the construction.(13)
Language is productive of activity in another sense, with which anyone is familiar who experiences words as attractive, magnetic to meaning. This is one of the first things one notices, for example, in works constructed from arbitrary vocabularies generated by random or chance operations (e.g., some works by Jackson Mac Low) or from a vocabulary limited according to some other criteria unrelated to meaning (for example, Alan Davies’s a an av es, a long poem excluding any words containing letters with ascenders or descenders, what the French call “the prisoner’s convention,” either because the bars are removed or because it saves paper). It is impossible to discover any string or bundle of words that is entirely free of possible narrative or psychological content. Moreover, though the “story” and “tone” of such works may be interpreted differently by different readers, nonetheless the readings differ within definite limits. While word strings are permissive, they do not license a free-for-all.
Writing develops subjects that mean the words we have for them.
Even words in storage, in the dictionary, seem frenetic with activity, as each individual entry attracts to itself other words as definition, example, and amplification. Thus, to open the dictionary at random, mastoid attracts nipplelike, temporal, bone, ear, and behind. Turning to temporal we find that the definition includes time, space, life, world, transitory, and near the temples, but, significantly, not mastoid. There is no entry for nipplelike, but the definition for nipple brings over protuberance, breast, udder, the female, milk, discharge, mouthpiece, and nursing bottle, but again not mastoid, nor temporal, nor time, bone, ear, space, or word. It is relevant that the exchanges are incompletely reciprocal.
and how did this happen like an excerpt
beginning in a square white boat abob on a gray sea . . .
tootling of another message by the
hacking lark . . .
as a child
to the rescue and its spring . . .
in a great lock of letters
like knock look . . .
worked by utter joy way
think through with that in minutes
slippage thinks random patterns
I intend greed as I intend pride
patterns of roll extend over the wish (14)
The “rage to know” is one expression of the restlessness engendered by language. “As long as man keeps hearing words / He’s sure that there’s a meaning somewhere,” as Mephistopheles points out in Goethe’s Faust.(15)