Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 18, pp. 172-183

Pagenstecher brings up Spencer again, but this time it is his lesser known poem Muiopotmos, or the Fate of the Butterfly. Its subject is the death of the heroic butterfly Clarion in the battle with the spider Aragnol.

Everything is important when it comes to looking beneath the surface and reading between the lines. We’re already used to the most bizarre etym-connections dug up by the indefatigable Pagenstecher. Now he goes beyond the word, drawing the attention of his audience to some elements of punctuation which can be as pregnant with meaning as the text itself. The dashes so abundantly used by Poe, according to Daniel, stand for lechery (Lüsternheit). In his own words, they are “typo(e)graphic signs for lechery seams in the word cladding”. He even goes as far as calculating the ratio of dashes to lines in the given Poe text with the results summarised in a table.

Paul and Daniel spy on two lovers getting it on in the underbrush. For each lover there is a separate column of text. This is perhaps  the most cryptic description of copulation you will ever read. Some of the metaphors are borrowed from land surveying so admired by Arno Schmidt. As expected, there is no lack of naughty puns like “Now do your Wurst”.

The discussion returns to the subject of Poe’s unfinished novel Julius Rodman. Wilma is still stunned by the fact that Pagenstecher holds in such high regard this “poorly patched together prose-cento”. (I have to admit that I personally agree with Wilma on this, as reading Julius Rodman proved to be one of the least pleasant experience to me.) Among the drawbacks of this text the woman points out the lack of composition and the author’s negligence of artistic means. It is no surpirse that Pagenstecher has a lot to say in defence of the novel; he particularly stresses the fact that Poe is not really guided here by the intention of creating a smooth, coherent, well-structured text, as his main concern is constructing a “settlement territory” (Ansiedlungsgebiet) for concealing all matters sexual. In other words, the true value of Julius Rodman is in the abundance of secret messages subconsciously encrypted in it by Poe.

Wilma finds this explanation rather disappointing, saying bitterly that if one follows Pagenstecher’s reasoning then one has to accept that the discovery of the Rocky Mountains, the main theme of the novel, is just a pretext for symbolical depiction of the unconscious, the sexual drive “on the plane” of the Extended Mind Game (Längere Gedankenspiel or LG). The latter term is quite often used not only throughout Zettel’s Traum, but also in Arno Schmidt’s theoretical writing, and therefore requires some explication. This is how this term is explained by Volker Langbehn in his study Arno Schmidt’s Zettel’s Traum:

To provide an accurate way of describing our experience and perception of reality Schmidt proposes three modes of consciousness and cognition: the process of recollection, the process of recollecting the most recent past. and the Extended Mind Game. […]

In contrast to the process of recollection, the Extended Mind Game requires two levels of experience, the level of objective reality (the actual experience of events or E I), and the level of subjective reality (the level of imagined events, which is the actual mind game, or E II). Dreams also make this distinction, but dreamed events, according to Schmidt, are experienced passively, whereas with the Extended Mind Game, the individual is much more in control, and selective. The Extended Mind Game functions partly as the conscious object of the narrator of the text.


Perimele Acheloo amata in insulam. Copperplate by Johann Wilhelm Baur. Image Source.

A long description of the island in Julius Rodman follows. Pagenstecher views it as a staggering achievement, a vivid example of symbolical representation of sexuality. In the right-hand column, parallel to the respective quotation, there is an excerpt from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which nymph Perimele is transformed by Poseidon into an island.  The indispensable etym-analysis of the word “island” and its equivalents in different languages is carried out.

to be continued

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3 Responses to Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 18, pp. 172-183

  1. Scot Roberts says:

    Bottom’s Dream–published by Dalkey Archive–is scheduled to be released on Sept. 23, 2016. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon. I’m in.

  2. I wonder what will be the price. Hopefully, lower than that of the German edition.

    • Scot Roberts says:

      Pre-order price is $70. Seems like a lot of Dalkey titles at Amazon aren’t seeing much of a discount anymore; I know they changed distributors recently; I don’t know if that has anything to do with their current supply/demand of recently published books. But, hopefully, Bottom’s Dream comes down a bit.

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