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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Meta-Oxymoron /

Meta-Oxymoron in Shakespeare’s Sonnets
(pk’s reading, my PhD thesis)
(the original step in my theory of Macroinformation)


1: to reveal Shakespeare’s sonnets as a pageant of our enduring epistemological pathologies
2: to communicate the overall oxymoronic character of Shakespeare’s sonnets
3: to demonstrate the degenerate nature of modern universities
4: to reveal how Scholastic Realism epitomizes kleptocracies’ degraded epistemologies

2012 08 14 To do this right I’d need a staff and budget the size of an American war,
and non-interference from the institutions which have sabotaged this work and me since the mid-1960s.

I’ll assemble this, in facets. This will be the menu of the parts.
I’ll try to plough the ground first, then plant the crop,
then tend it in minute detail.
Current agenda:
1) resurrect K. introduction text of 1997ish: hard: the layout was hand-coded for a different HTML medium.
2) repair links in that module
3) resurrect some K. sonnet basics
4) read one odd Shakespeare sonnet, introducing several Sonnet complexities
Note: a sonnet as a verse form is lower case; Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a title, a collection, is uppercase.

Formerly titled Oxymoron of Idea
and a series of alternate titles, since 1964 or so
@ K. since c. 1997

Understand: the reason I offered a low-cost low-tech internet in 1970, offering cybernetic data bases and feedback mechanisms, digital record keeping, all before personal computers had yet been invented, was because in the six previous years my graduate university had understood not one word of what I’d tried to explain about Shakespeare, about literature, about history. Authorities will murder god rather than listen.

I read in the K. Introduction, part by part:

Oxymoron of Oxymora
in Shakespeare’s
Cybernetic Sonnets

Regulars around a university are very good
at whatever they’ve been drilled at;
without rehearsal though they are uniformly impervious.

Nearly forty years after I first tried to communicate my doctoral thesis relating meta-oxymoron in Shakespeare’s Sonnets to the controversy between Scholastic Realism and Nominalism, not one academic has yet shown me a sigle glimmer of comprehension.
(That does not prove that academics are stupider than the norm: no two members of the public have yet done better: the public, the press, the publishers, the acedemy: impervious.)

Shakespeare’s Sonnetsnote are readily available for anyone to read, hear, quote, sing … Before I talk about them, analyze them, relate them to our intellectual and spiritual history at large, I must introduce at least a couple of my basic terms. Oxymoron is a public word but still may need comment when specialists use it. Cybernetic is a specialized word and I must inform the reader what area of the specialty I emphasize. Meta-oxymoronnote is my coinage. Though I hope the reader can easily and naturally follow my meaning, I’d better show the path.


Some philosophers use oxymoron to mean a paradox: a self-contradiction. Students of literature mean a rhetorical figure involving the juxtaposition of normal incompatibles. The figure was popular in the Renaissance. Shakespeare used it extensively: “sweet sorrow” is a famous example; dark lady is an example well known from the Sonnets. Juliet, preparing to bid adieu to Romeo, uttered the first: “parting is such sweet sorrow.” The dark lady comes as a relief after a cycle of sonnets about a fair youth who’s too good to be true: even featured, virtuous, fair complected … and most important, aristocratic: socially, economically, and politically elevated over the poet. (And unless your’e read a lot of Renaissance sonnets, you’re not likely to realize quite how conventional the praises are: being indeed dictated by convension. The dark lady relates far closer to our experience; the fair youth merely matches our ideals: ideals we’ve been fed. (Revision line: I’ll smooth this later.) Dark is associated with evil, things ill; lady, especially in the tradition of Courtly Love, is associated with spiritual elevation. Class and political elevation come along with it and lust is all tangled in. Thus, dark lady is a contradiction: ladies are supposed to be fair.


Cybernetics is not a concept normally referred to by English majors, or by English professors: except to talk about computers. My meaning predates computers. Cybernetics developed in the 1940s as the science of navigation for servo mechanisms. Cybernetics understands that targets can seldom be reached directly. The sailor tacks to port, then to starboard, in order to advance straight. I say that Shakespeare tacked to the Fair Love and to the Dark Lady in order to arrive somewhere which is neither of them: somewhere which can only be apprehended cybernetically: indeed somewhere that I have had to invent my concept of Macroinformation in order to try to point toward: somewhere that only concepts such as drama, poetry, or life can encompass.


Metaoxymoron is my coinage. But it shouldn’t be too hard to understand. I merely portmanteau oxymoron, as above, and meta-: a prefix meaning orthogonal: in a different logical dimension. Man’s intelligence is meta to a worm’s intelligence: God’s intelligence is meta to a man’s intelligence. I argue that from the Sonnets emerges a new oxymoron based on the constituent oxymora: an oxymoron of oxymora: a metaoxymoron: a complex of them.

Dark Lady



things denigrated

things elevated

evil, sinful … class, privilege … sanctity
There I have graphed the concept. “Dark Lady,” the oxymoron, is the apex of the triangle. “Dark” and “Lady” are its incompatible constituents.

But the bulk of the sonnets refer to a Fair Love. Fair Love, in contrast, is not an oxymoron: it is a redundancy. It’s composed of like elements, not incompatibles. Fair Love is harmonious; Dark Lady dissonant. Dark Lady quotes the Sonnets themselves; Fair Love is a construct referred to by Shakespeareans, not by Shakespeare. He uses the word fair again and again: likewise love; but he does not salt the sonnets with “fair love” as an actual phrase. The construct is made in the mind by the readers of the Sonnets. Nevertheless, the concepts if not the phrases form a pairing that dominates the Sonnets as a whole.

Now: pair the pairs: Fair-Love / Dark-Lady. Is it a redundancy? No. Is it a new oxymoron? Yes. More: it’s a metaoxymoron. It bulges into a new informational dimension.


Fair Love

Dark Lady

An oxymoron cannot be articulated. A brick isn’t the structure. Neither a stack nor a string of bricks is the structure. If an oxymoron could be articulated, the poet would not need the oxymoron. That applies the more so to a metaoxymoron. I had to invent Macroinformation in order to so much as try to talk about what Shakespeare shows me. (I believe many of us feel the metaoxymoron; I believe only I see it.)

And I believe that would have been a pretty good, and true, thesis right there: once illustrated among the actual sonnets themselves. But that’s barely the half of it. In fact it is the complementary part that made me see the above in the first place.

The fair-love / dark-lady metaoxymoron corresponds — in a complex of ways that can be mapped formally — to a contradiction woven deeply into western civilization: manifestly in the recent millennium: and no where near resolved to date. It is a contradiction one side of which has elevated adherents to sainthood while numerous counter-debaters met with sabotage, mutilation, torture, and burning. Ironically, philosophical descendants of the heretical latter rule our technological civilization. We work for the heresy Monday to Friday, but still worship the orthodoxy on the weekend. I am speaking of Scholastic Realism and its antagonist, nominalism. In a word, Realism insisted that only God had ontological reality: heaven is a real place; earth a fake place. God is a real being: the only one; we are considerably less than real. Nominalists like Abelard argued that this chair and this table, and this Geoffrey and this Alison are real: more real than the abstractions table or the abstraction man. Cost him his manhood, nearly cost him his life: cost him much of his fame, did cost him his love.


ideal is real

actual is real

God, King, Priest …

man, woman, toad, tree

metaphysical vapors instance, experience
Or look at it this way:




The above merely points at our destination. Saying that we’re going to fly to Paris does not actually put us in Paris. Yet I hope the visitor can anticipate some part of the metaoxymora I gesture toward. I trust that as we browse the actual sonnets the promised agons will manifest.

Before you browse much further in this section please understand that some of the frustrations my thesis had encountered in the mid 1960s recapitulated in the middle late 1990s. Part of it is me, but part of it is my society and my species. These ideas may or may not be difficult inherently: I know for sure that they are difficult for our culture. How do I communicate them? I’d already failed once — while failing at everything else as well: all my ideas relating. In short, I left this section, just aborning, to develop its implications apart from Shakespeare and the Sonnets: at Macroinformation. I’ve now, 04 16 2004, progressed enough there to hope I can now progress here as well. I hope both endeavors will goose each other along. Metaoxymoron becomes Macroinformation. Metaoxymoron is Macroinformation!: one example of it.

2006 01 08 I recently read a Michael Crichton novel, perhaps the Fear one, in which a character had done English, but gave it up, transferred to MIT and the sciences, declaring that there was absolutely nothing new to say about Shakespeare. That is so far from true. What may be true, certainly seems true in my case, is that neither academics nor public will hear anything new. Oh, that’s not what I already believe — and reject it without listening, without thinking. Without Thinking: that’s what all institutions could be aptly renamed.

A year or so back I tried to rededicate myself to this explication; but my Shakespeare thesis, however profound, is trivial compared to what I’ve dedicated my intellectual energies of the past few decades to instead: Deschooling, anarchism, Macroinformation … Of course the latter IS my Shakespeare thesis: expanded to the point where Shakespeare is merely one illustration and the Sonnets have only been touched on.

Tons of old K. stuff to reconstitute.


Hereafter I refer to the Sonnets as a group, the book of Shakespeare’s published (however pirated) sonnets, merely by capitalizing the S, not styling it bold, as a book title.

I hyphenate “meta-oxymoron” for the first usage and merely write “metaoxymoron” thereafter: same as I do with macroinformation.)

on Shakespeare’s Sonnets Menu

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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