Essays In Present Tense

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The word ‘perfect’ in this case means ‘made complete’ or ‘completely done,’ and ‘perfect’ tenses are used in describing two events and specifying how the two are related with respect to time.

But this knowledge is binding only if it is rediscovered through complete submission to the matter at hand.

(On Lyric Poetry and Society) “Rediscovered”: what does that mean? In his famous letter to Francesco Vettori, in which he announces his “small work On Principalities,” Machiavelli remembers Dante’s Paradiso 5.41-42, which “says that what has been learned does not become knowledge unless it is retained.” Knowledge must be retained on the inside (“e fermalvi entro,” writes Dante), and Machiavelli says that in order to retain it he has written The Prince “in which I immerse myself as much as I can in the understandings of this subject.” The notion of rediscover likewise plays a crucial role in Vico’s verum et factum principle: history (what Vico called the world of nations) was (is?

In my house live a literary critic and a historian. Aside from differing views on paint colors, dinner choices, and departure times, a regular dispute erupts concerning verb tenses: present tense or past tense? When do you deploy the present tense of the literary critic, and when do you deploy the past tense of the historian?

When you write about a book, do you describe its action in the present tense (Hamlet whines) or in the past tense (Hamlet whined)? It is a difficult question to answer, and, really, I am not going to answer it here.


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