Term Paper on Caryl Churchill
“it had something to do / with death… it had something / to do with love”: The Eroticism of Memory in “This Room and Everything in It”
Li-Young Lee’s “This Room and Everything in It” explores human memory as inherently erotic, in other words, as grounded in the restless vicissitudes of human desire. The act of memory figured in Lee’s poem involves the desire to transcend desire so as to reach a state of perfection in which the fundamental connection between love and death can be remembered. In the end, though, desire slips through memory’s fragile constructions and resumes its pre-rational primacy in the “room” that is human life.
The principal trope at work in “This Room and …show more content…
In the traditional art of memory, various “ideas about love,” personified as gods or goddesses, would often serve as mnemonic devices; in Lee’s poem, though, ideas about love are the items that the poet wishes to remember: specifically, “distance,” “mystery,” and some idea figured in “the daily cup / of milk I drank / as a boy before morning prayer.” By reversing the associative direction of the art of memory, Lee’s poem seems to suggest that if memory itself arises out of desire, then desire can only be remembered in the form of “ideas” that allow memory the means of getting beyond its own ground so as to articulate it.
The speaker’s art of memory ostensibly comes about so that “one day, when I need / to tell myself something intelligent / about love, / I’ll close my eyes / and recall this room and everything in it” (50). On a deeper level, though, the speaker’s activity seems to be in service of fixing (i.e., making permanent) the exultation of desire that is possible in