In literature, the advice often given is to show and not tell. In academia, it is the opposite: tell and do not show. Sigurd’s Lament is a text that asks the question: can scholarship show rather than tell? On the surface, it is the collected work of a mid-twentieth century scholar, Hawthorne Basil Peters, who has curated the life’s work of his father—the translation of a Welsh epic into the alliterative meter of the English Revival. The poem is produced in full, but so too is the historic introduction, commentary, and academic apparatus. Peters, for the first time, shares with the world his father’s wonderful translation and his previously unpublished academic ideas. In a text rife with distention, however, Peters draws the reader’s attention to the unexpected flexibility of language and asks only one thing in return: drink deeply. For Sigurd’s Lament is a text of the most serious play. It is ambiguous and obfuscating and riddled with footnotes that have lurking within them—like goblins in the weeds—future tales of the stories of past narratives.
I spent my morning rereading, Postscript to the Name of the Rose, which, as my first introduction to Umberto Eco, I have not read in years. I realize now, more than ever, the impact that Eco has had on me as both a thinker and a writer. I have thought, said, and written nothing that he has not already thought, said, and written. I can only hope that this will remain a constant. If, as he writes, “books are made only from other books,” then may all that I write emerge from the matter of Eco’s.