So now we're going to talk about a short prose poem that's part of another long poem, a valentine to Sherwood Anderson, called Let Us Describe. So let's leave the title for later. This seems to be a narrative style, slightly more narrative than usual. Somebody want to say what the story is? Kristen, what's going on? >> So it sounds like there's a group of cars that are going somewhere at night and it's bad weather outside, it's windy. And although the road is well-maintained, it's not the best driving conditions. And so some of the cars don't go and some do and then something bad happens at the end. >> What's happened that night? Where are they leaving? Where are they coming from? You'll have to guess, I guess. >> Could be they're all leaving a party. >> Some kind of gathering, all right. So there was a storm and some people went. Those that didn't go, something happened to them. We don't know what that is. First, before we get to that, somebody say what the feeling about the story is. What does this story make you think, Molly? What do you think when you hear this story? >> it's a little bit somber although it's straightforward. And I think at the end, there's a very sort of reverent tone to it, the let us bless it. >> Right, and then that having been blessed, let's us bless it. And we don't know what is being blessed, if we read it just straight through. Why do you think Stein wrote something that is seemingly narratively coherent and then stops being so at the end? Do you think she has something in mind, Dave? Is she trying to tease us with some kind of coherence? What's going on? >> I think it goes to what she was saying about narrative before, she's trying to break it down. Life doesn't always happen. Cause and effect. >> Right. >> And I think this is trying to replicate that confusion, that way life happens. >> So there's something ominous about the, although the road was in excellent condition and well-graded, that's ominous. It almost sounds like, back in my day when I was in high school, they used to run films of what happens when you don't drive well. And the music was very ominous. What do you think is going to happen as you read about this very windy night? Anna, it's kind of an obvious question but what the heck? >> Well, maybe they just go in there as a sacrifice. To me, that seems like maybe there was some kind of car wreck, accident. >> Accident, can we use the word accident? Dave was just saying that we see narrative but life isn't lived that way, because there are accidents. There are accidents. This is the perfect word. >> It's kind of a breakdown of narrative. If you run into- >> [CROSSTALK] An accident is a breakdown in narrative. We were friends. We lived together. We loved together. We hung out together. We gathered at night together. Sometimes we gathered well into the morning, and some people stayed over because it was stormy. But some people went and we said, be careful, and they went. And then there was an accident and that was the end, right? So let's look at the language she uses to describe the end. Some of those who had planned to go were unable to do so. Many others did go and there was a sacrifice, of what shall we, a sheep, a hen, a cock, a village, a ruin, and all that. And then that having been blessed, let us bless it. Emily, what is she doing? Suddenly, the language is not narrative and it is not denotative. >> [COUGH] Sorry, it stops becoming denotative as soon as it starts to try to articulate a loss. And suddenly, a sacrifice of what shall we, well, what do you call a sacrifice? How do you find language appropriate to describe a sort of considerable emotional irreparable loss? And when it refuses to make sense, it seems to be confessing that the impossibility of that type of articulation. >> That's so well put. So anybody want to add to that? Loss shouldn't be described descriptively because when you do, what do you miss? What do you lose, what's inappropriate? >> You lose, I guess, the struggle of it, the articulation and it's painful. >> The power, the pain and also its accidental quality. You lose the accidental quality, so what Stein does here is she introduces or reintroduces the accidental quality of the language. To write straightforwardly about such an accident is essentially to create a contradiction, a form content contradiction. Ally, what do you think of this? >> Well, also were you to not do that, you would lose the form of the loss, in some way. I think, that, in addition to kind of enacting the accidental quality and also the form of this kind of reflects maybe your mental state when something like this happens. >> The language reflects your mental state, which is that your head is spinning, that you're thinking of all kinds of things at once. There is a way in which what's said in this lesson does make sense. Anybody want to try to make some sense of it, Kristen? >> Okay, so the people who did go got into an accident, the sacrifice. And then she lists a sheep, a hen, a cock, a village, a ruin. >> What's going on there? >> So- >> Does that describe anything? >> I think a village, a ruin, does describe something. It's kind of this accident really shakes up the community. >> Let's try to imagine a French countryside at night in the 20s. So it's possible that the car wreck would've killed a sheep, a hen, a cock. >> Maybe that the sheep caused the car wreck. >> Yeah, it's very possible. [LAUGH] >> And you can see that sheep and the car spins round and round in what is perceived from the accident. We've all been there, unfortunately. Many of us have been there. I certainly have been there. Things go round, your world goes round. You see a sheep, a cock, a hen, a villager, ruin and all that. The whole world flashes before your eyes, can I say it that way? This is an accident, and then help us with the end. That hadn't been blessed, let us bless it. >> So it's very prayerful, I would say. And then that having been blessed, let's bless it. Maybe I can have Molly help me. >> Molly, want to help? It's kind of a benediction. >> Yeah, well, she says and all of that and then that having been blessed, l feel like the all that is referring to this fractured image of the sheep, the hen, the cock, a village. And that's all already been blessed. >> Let's talk about this as an elegy. What's an elegy? >> A celebration of someone's- >> Well, first, the mourning of someone, a loss. In the end, the elegy turns back toward life. So, first you mourn. He's gone, he's gone, I miss him. Second, this is what he did in life, fantastic, and third, here's how we will go on and be better. That's the traditional elegy. Does this resemble that at all? >> I think- >> The third part is certainly there. >> Yeah, in a way it does. But I think what's really interesting is that in this list of items, a sheep, a hen, a cock, a villager, and it skips. Because it says many others did go in there as a sacrifice of what shall we. And then it lists a bunch of things, but it skips the kind of central thing, that's missing. And goes right ahead to, it kind of skips the crucial stage. >> Let us describe is the name. It's almost Amarise-ish, it's a programmatic title, let us describe. This is how we shall describe the loss. We shall not describe the loss as we will not narrativize it. We will not make a beginning, middle and end of it. We will not create a cause and effect because it was an accident. They didn't deserve to die, but they did. Let us describe. What does she mean, what kind of description does she mean then? Why let us describe, Amarise? >> I think it's an ironic tale given the content of the poem. And I think the tone of it, rather than sudden seems very deliberate. And they unnamed there seemed to be sort of acceptance and resignation with the impossibility of this articulation. >> So- >> She moves from, let us describe, to let us bless. Same wording. I think I disagree with you about it's being an ironic title though. Anybody want to go with that? >> Just that is, it is a description and it's not a definition. She's attributing qualities to this thing, but she's refusing to name it, right? What Ally pointed it out is the absence there, a sacrifice of what shall we. You want to finish that with, of what shall we call it? And she never calls it anything. So I think it's very sincere. >> It's very sincere, I love that and sincerity in Gertrude Stein, we have to start thinking about that. Molly, you were going to say something. >> I was going to say I think it's significant that it's let us describe and not just let me describe. I think she really wants to involve the reader in the meaning making and discovering those relationships. >> I think this, in a modest way and a sentimental way almost, throws down the gauntlet and says if we are going to do honor to absence to those who've departed in this case, to the accident, to the accidents of life, we cannot say it that way anymore the old way. We have to allow the language to be commensurate to the accidental quality of lives. We can't let narrative take its narrative course when someone got cut off. At the end of this course in chapter nine, we're going to be reading a poem by Bob Perelman called, Chronic Meanings. And what he does there in honor of the pre-memory, because the guy he's writing about, Lee Hickman, was still alive at that time. But he was dying, he had AIDS. And so Bob Perelman writes a poem in which he deliberately cuts off every line, every thought. So that the poem does honor to the loss, to the accide.nt alone And so we have to do the work of trying to reconstruct the scene of the accident. And that is the best way we can memorialize and remember the people we lost. By being at sea, by being disoriented, that's the word I'm looking for. By being disoriented, we must be disoriented if we are going to fully understand the loss or the experience that they have had in the accident. So let us describe that way. Let us find a form that is commesurate with life as it's really lived, or when we reach the end of it.