Thursday 18 August 2011

Tweeting William Morris

Have just started tweeting on my usual issues of Morris and utopia. If you go into the Twitter website and search for ‘TonyPinkney1’, you should be able to find me (and could then choose to ‘follow’ the sequence, if you feel so inclined). After all, if The Earthly Paradise celebrates ‘The twitter of the autumn birds’ in ‘The Man born to be King’, why should we not try out the twitter of the literary critics? Perhaps it too might prove to be tuneful and consoling.

Apart from a few famous maxims (‘Have nothing in your house ...’, etc), Morris is the very opposite of an aphoristic writer. Think of those great sheets of poetry-as-tapestry in The Earthly Paradise itself, for example, or the family description of The Well at the World's End as 'the Interminable'. So will it indeed prove possible to evoke and discuss him fruitfully in the tiny genre of the 140-character tweet? I’m not sure. ‘Scorn not the Sonnet’, counselled Wordsworth; but that was fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, not 140 characters! Whereas if you were tweeting on Oscar Wilde, say, rather than Morris, you might feel that this mode of miniature commentary was in harmony with the lapidary, epigrammatic energies of your subject himself.

Yet I do believe that new modes of writing, however challenging, can themselves sometimes generate new thoughts, even new kinds of thinking. For in his Adorno book, Fredric Jameson writes of ‘the possibility of forms of writing and Darstellung [presentation] that unexpectedly free you from the taboos and constraints of forms learnt by rote and assumed to be inscribed in the nature of things’. And perhaps Twitter too, as Walter Benjamin did for Adorno, will offer ‘the possibility of another kind of writing – which is eventually to say: another kind of thinking’ (p.52).

So, as far as William Morris tweeting goes, I think the answer is: suck it and see! I intend to.


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