6. Diatribe v. Epiphany


Reminds one of a steam-engine. A locomotive. They're the only things that seem to me to ache with amorous love. All that steam inside them. Forty million foot-pounds pressure. The ache of AMOROUS LOVE. Steam-pressure. CHUFF![19]

Discarding the "democratic soul," the "jellyfish" of "AMOROUS LOVE," Miller accepts Whitman's power of verbal locomotion.[20] This is also the point at which Miller breaks forever from D. H. Lawrence; where the "formula" for Tropic of Cancer's "Arabian zero" narration derives from Lawrence's abuse of Whitman:

The Open Road. The great home of the Soul is the open road. Not heaven, not paradise. Not 'above'. Not even 'within'. The soul is neither 'above' nor 'within'. It is a wayfarer down the open road.
Not by meditating. Not by fasting. Not by exploring heaven after heaven, inwardly, in the manner of the great mystics. Not by exaltation. Not by ecstasy. Not by any of these ways does the soul come into her own. [....]
Only through the journey down the open road.
The journey itself, down the open road. Exposed to full contact. On two slow feet. Meeting whatever comes down the open road. In company with those that drift in the same measure along the same way. Towards no goal. Always the open road.[21]

Miller's "clown" is Whitman parodied by Lawrence.

Miller's diatribes transpire on the site of sight. Worldly diatribe substitutes for transcendent epiphany. For, as with the lavender eye that is seen rather than seeing, as with Lawrence's mechanization of Whitman, Miller's tirades transform vision into thing and place, so that he might pass by and pass through the aesthetics of "above" and "within." The frenzied flow of words that "carries off" the oppositions of presence and absence, subject and object, self and cosmos, begins where vision reaches its limit. Flow begins where the eyes ossify into but another "ore" carried on the trains of France. Miller begins where the poet's desire to "see" into Nature and the primal void may be parodied as sexual prurience:

In that crack I would like to penetrate up to the eyes, make them waggle ferociously, dear, crazy metallurgical eyes. When the eyes waggle then I hear again Dostoevski's words, hear them rolling on page after page, with minutest observation, with maddest introspection, with all the undertones of misery now lightly, humorously touched, now swelling like an organ note until the heart bursts and there is nothing left but a blinding, scorching light, the radiant light that carries off the fecundating seeds of the stars. The story of art whose roots lie in massacre.[22]

The "crazy metallurgical eyes" "waggle" because they have reached the limit of vision. Ahab's "mad mark" has been Freudianized--the origin knowledge imagines as its object and fulfillment is sexual--and at this limit the eyes cannot take it all in. There is nothing left to see. There is only "blinding light" illuminating its own blindness, its failure to discover any object except absence: "[...] Dostoevski was the sum of all those contradictions which either paralyze a man or lead him to the heights [...] by his flashes, illuminating for us the depth and immensity of the darkness."[23] In the place of the "sum" of the ironies of vision, that which both paralyzes and leads to epiphantic heights, Miller underscores what he discovers in Dostoevski as in Whitman: the locomotion of narrative "rolling on page after page," traversing the ground of naturalist observation and introspection, but after the bounds between self and other have been burst, after the "massacre." Vision remains important to Miller, but his narrative performs a fundamental reorientation of the tropes of vision. Vision becomes transitive, one passing activity among others. No longer does it serve to set up a hierarchical axis that situates the artist and the literary work over and above the represented world.

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