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In a Villanelle Mood

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In a villanelle mood, Colm Tóibín started the following poem. The immediate context was a remark by a colleague that our students (and indeed most of our colleagues) don’t seem to get excited about theory the way they used to. The title and first stanza are Colm’s, and therefore so are the rhymes. You can tell from the word ‘skid’ that I’m running out of options.

A Structuralist Lament

They don’t thrill at the sign as we once did.
They see Saussure as one more dead white male
Trapped between the ego and the id.

The Elementary Structures all are hid,
No Lévi-Strauss is heard to tell the tale:
They don’t thrill at the sign as we once did.

Semiotics had its day but flipped its lid,
Got lost inside the advertising whale,
Or trapped between the ego and the id.

Alas, poor Barthes, who cares for Ess and Zed?
When every morpheme’s up for sale
They don’t thrill at the sign as we once did.

And as for ‘Theory’ writ large, heaven forbid,
There’s nothing left but cakes and ale
Trapped between the ego and the id.

Myth and symbol slide and skid,
It’s lost for good, the fine old trail.
They don’t thrill at the sign as we once did,
Trapped as we were between the ego and the id.

Comments on “In a Villanelle Mood”

  1. Martin says:

    Well, sadly, it’s a sign of the times.

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