Bringing the frame into the picture

Stanley Cavell, the philosopher, wrote that “there is always a camera left out of the picture,” by which I take him to mean that were we able to bring it in, a very different picture would result.

A wonderful story passed on by the poet, Donald Hall, illuminates the point. Archibald MacLeish told him about the actor, Richard Burton, and a brother of his:

Then Burton and Jenkins quarreled over Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” Jenkins said it was a bad poem: disgusting, awful. Burton praised it: magnificent, superb. Jenkins repeated that it was nothing at all, whereupon Burton commanded silence and spoke the whole poem, perfect from first syllable to last. MacLeish told me that Burton’s recitation was a great performance, and when he ended, drawing the last syllable out, the still air shook with the memory and mystery of this speaking. Then, into the silence, brother Jenkins spoke his word of critical reason: “See?

And do you?

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