Notes on Bathos
I’d like to take you on an intertextual journey of bathos. To begin with, let’s get a working definition of bathos. A google search of the definition comes up with this:
mid 17th century (first recorded in the Greek sense): from Greek, literally ‘depth’. The current sense was introduced by Alexander Pope in the early 18th century.
Alexander Pope made the term famous by writing a parodic style guide for bad poetry entitled Peri Bathous, regressing intentionally from the ancient guide for sublime poetry entitled Peri Hypnous.
Recently, in response to Donald Trump’s outrageous demands for “unqualified praise” from reporters, Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post created her own “bathetic” style guide for Trump coverage in the news.
Point #3 of Petri’s guide is a bathetic allusion to Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:
3. Does Donald Trump contradict himself? Very well; he contradicts himself. Donald Trump is large. Donald Trump contains multitudes.
The lines from “Song of Myself” read:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Arguably, Whitman’s own lines are an “omnisexual” bathetic allusion to the bible, perhaps to “Song of Solomon”, which has been described as perhaps the sexiest, most conspicuously “queer” book of the bible. A comparison of the two “Songs” is made here.
I’ve opted to make a slightly less elegant allusion than Petri has in a similar bathetic allusion to lines from “Song of Myself”:
Donald Trump too is not a bit tamed, he too is untranslatable,
He sounds his barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
Pope with his bathos and Whitman with his free-verse were two poets who willfully challenged poetic traditions. A poem I once wrote willfully merges the freedom of Whitman and anticlimax of Pope in my own “Song of…” poem.
My poem is entitled “Song of Sandwich.” The poem’s sex symbolism comes from my rendering of the sandwich as a symbol of the vagina. I try to make jabs at patriarchal and poetical attempts to “trump” women’s choice, discourse, etc (although you may have to “undress” the language to find these jabs).
Before I give you the text of this poem, however, I shall divert you to another quip I made about Trump via Twitter in relation to this sandwich theme:
Merriam webster’s dictionary called a hotdog a sandwich. I guess that’s like calling Donald Trump a politician. https://t.co/OKRUfECeEj
— Erica Eller (@EricaEller) June 16, 2016
By clicking on the link in my tweet, you’ll find a lively rebuttal by arrantpedantry.com of Merriam Webster’s “definitional meaning” of hotdog, stating that instead, meaning should be derived from use. Therefore, for all intents and purposes there is no such thing as:
Genus: Sandwich, Species: Hotdog
nor can we establish the following claim:
Genus: Politician, Species: Donald Trump
Octopi (I assume), Hotdogs, and Trump are to remain taxonomic anomalies.
Now, I present you the ultimate anticlimax of this post!