A Faithful Account of Where I Live: The Letters of Cid Corman and William Bronk

8 June 70

Dear Cid,

Summer now, praise God! The warmth, the floods of light, the lavish variants of green. I am just in from walking on the towpath and a bathe in the canal.

I don't keep up at all with history (not believing it after all) but I was interested by an article in a recent NY Review of Books ["What is to Be Done About Medieval History?" written by Geoffrey Barraclough in 4 June 1970 New York Review of Books] which discussed several new books on medieval history against theoretical fashions in study as "Quantitative History" and the traditional method of critical exegesis as a result of which latter "practically not one certain fact is left." " The trouble is you are left in the end, either with other myths-the myths historians have substituted for the myths of chroniclers or older historians-or with a vacuum: you are not left with the truth. And the reason you are not left with the truth is that history is not like a statue lying on the ground covered with leaves, and when you have cleared away the leaves, there is the statue, complete and perfect. On the contrary, history--or at least that kind of history-is more like the successive layers of leaves, and when you have cleared them us, you are left with nothing, with the bare ground."

This struck me not as a metaphor for history but a metaphor for experience-for "reality" in my poem

"As though it were something that lay like a lump in the yard, that anyone could kick."
And the reviewer goes on after some other observations "medievalists today seek to "feel" themselves into the spirit of an age, to relive and recreate the past in their own minds by a sort of continuing conversation with its representative figures. Empathy has taken the place of criticism as they key to historical understanding." And what else do we do, I wondered, with our own present, our own experience which includes of course, our past? Are historians joining us now?

Jim [Weil] is coming Wednesday to spend the day with me unless he has a problem again. Mother says someone called while I was walking. Whoever hasn't called back again.

Well yes, we are both humanists but I expect we include things in our humanity that others might consider sub or super or anyway extra. It aint that easy.



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