Hoarders, Shorers, and Other Linguistic Things

Brian Phillips, writing about England in Euro 2012, has a lovely turn of phrase:
The sheer volume and ferocity of response to every tiny question involving the team sometimes make it seem as though England is only a hysterical projection of the national psyche — that the players, managers, administrators et al are trapped in what Seamus Heaney once called "Englands of the mind." They don't live in hotel rooms, they live in tabloid arguments about hotel rooms, and in arguments about those arguments.
That phrase, the "Englands of the mind," was suggestive enough that I dropped the football and clicked through. In the essay from which Phillips draws the phrase, Heaney is making -- I think -- a slightly different argument. Not to take anything away from the evaluation of England -- spot on, I think -- but reading Heaney was revelatory:
It is in the context of this auditory imagination that I wish to discuss the language of Ted Hughes, Geoffrey Hill, and Philip Larkin. All of them return to an origin and bring something back, all three live off the hump of the English poetic achievement, all three, here and now, in England, imply a continuity with another England, there and then. All three are hoarders and shorers of what they take to be the England. All three treat England as a region -- or rather treat their region as England -- in different and complementary ways. I believe they are afflicted with a sense of history that was once the peculiar affliction of the poets of other nations who were not themselves natives of England but who spoke the English language. The poets of the mother culture, I feel, are now possessed of that defensive love of their territory which was once shared only by those poets whom we might call colonial -- Yeats, MacDiarmid, Carlos Williams.[“Englands of the Mind,” in The Broadview Anthology of English Literature, p. 825]
One of the things I enjoyed turning over the other day was this sense of writing as "a way of establishing a set of relationships with the world around us." If we accept that, we might then start to ask about the means through which those relationships are articulated -- these might be social, they might be material, but they are above all linguistic. This is Heaney's chief concern: How do each of the poets under consideration negotiate with the historicity of their English?

What this immediately makes me start to think of is my ongoing work -- or at least the portion that involves trying to trace how people talk about Eyüp in different ways. What are the vocabularies that they make use of? And how do those vocabularies mobilize specific understandings of 'Turkey', 'Turkishness', and 'Islam'?

There's more to address -- most especially how this might tie into what I struggled with for my MA thesis with Orhan Pamuk -- but it's probably better to leave it here for the moment. Untied, as it were.


Jordan M said…
Whether it's the written word, verbal exclamations, or what we whisper to ourselves in our minds, how we talk about ourselves, our countries, and everything else shapes over time how we tend to think about. For me, I have go to phrases when people refer to "The South", "North Carolina" or this and that place. Obviously, there are deeper topics and stories to be discussed about how our imagining of a place comes to be.

I agree with Phillips' assessment of the English and how they treat their national team. It's a team of varied individuals, of varied talent and varied criminal and personal records that, on the pitch, can either play a thrilling match like against Sweden or a boring one like the one against the French. And it doesn't matter who's on that team, for some reason, it's the psyche, whether provided by the English public conscience and their being a part of it, or from the team itself but as long as I've been alive and watching them, that's been the frustrating and exciting thing about watching England play.
Timur Hammond said…
Thanks for the comment -- I think you're right in picking up on Phillips' meaning here. He has this line, "as though England is only a hysterical projection of its national psyche," that I think says much the same thing.

It's funny -- when I first read the Phillips' piece, I loved the Heaney essay he linked to and I really enjoyed his analysis, but I wasn't terribly taken with the reference within the article itself. But thinking about it a little more, especially in response to the comment, it makes more sense to me: That all these debates about the 'nature' of English football tell us relatively little about the players themselves and tell us a great deal about the complicated ways that 'England' is imagined as having a certain set of qualities, dispositions, skills, attitudes, etc.

But it's kind of funny that we're talking about the "thrilling" English victory -- the Zonal Marking analysis of the game had this to say instead:
"But the second half’s main feature was simply terrible defending – both at set-pieces and in open play. For two sides expected to retain great shape without the ball, they were both were all over the place – the wingers were slow to get back into position, the central midfielders scampered forward when they should have been protecting their back four, and too many free-kicks were conceded.

All that, combined with (a) poor possession play when either side was ahead and (b) the fact that, realistically, both needed a win, meant a goalfest – but neither side actually played well, in tactical or technical terms."

Still, a lot of fun to watch.
Jordan M said…
Seeing how "Zonal Marking" actually aligns to the perception of play is always interesting. How teams are built to play, practice to play, and actually play on game day can be so diverse it's what continues to make games at this level exciting. Spain and Croatia being scoreless for most of a match wasn't a surprise, Ireland - Italy being so was.

Anyway, shaping up to be some good matches to come.

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