Looking over Dillard's Shoulder
Michael Talis '02, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002
Annie Dillard does a lot of seeing in her book
Self-consciousness, however, does hinder the experience of the present. It is the one instrument that unplugs all the rest. So long as I lose myself in a tree, say, I can scent its leafy breath or estimate its board feet of lumber, I can draw its fruits or boil tea on its branches, and the tree stays tree. But the second I become aware of myself at any of these activities -- looking over my own shoulder, as it were -- the tree vanishes, uprooted from the spot and flung out of sight as if it had never grown. And time, which had flowed down into the tree bearing new revelations like floating leaves at every moment, ceases. It dams, stills, stagnates. 
- How is Dillard able to recount her particulars of sensation and thought, as she does in this chapter, if she forbade herself from being self-conscious in those past moments? Is this a contradiction or merely artistic license?
- Where does
Pilgrim at Tinker Creekfit in Dillard's definition of past, present, and future? In other words, when does writing and the writing process enter the seeing/analyzing process for Dillard?
- In her description of the present she says, "And the second I verbalize this awareness in my brain, I cease to see the mountain or feel the puppy" (79). Does writing also count as verbalization and thus take her farther from the subject, blinding her even?
Last modified 3 December 2006