The quotation effect

The other night, wanting something to read, I asked my Twitter friends if they could recommend any poems they liked. One of them suggested Conrad Aiken's "Morning Song of Senlin," which I'd never read before but was very glad to have pointed out to me. At the end of the first stanza I was stopped short by the lines

Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in the saffron mist and seem to die
And I myself upon a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie…

"Oh," I thought, "so that's where Madeleine L'Engle got that title." And that got me thinking about the belated quotation effect: the odd jolt when you realize that a line you've already heard or read is actually a quotation from something you're just now reading. The Belated Quotation Effect kicks in, for instance, when one realizes at one's first performance of Hamlet (or one's first viewing of Casablanca) that that's where all those famous lines come from; or when one suddenly identifies Act 3 of Die Walküre as the music behind Elmer Fudd's "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!"

In college, during my classics-major phase, I took a course on Petronius's Satyricon. One day in class, we translated section 48, which contains a line we all recognized: "Nam
Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et
cum illi pueri dicerent: ??????? ?? ??????; respondebat illa: ?????????
"—a line best known as the epigraph to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land."
We all stopped and wondered out loud whether that line about the Sibyl
hanging in her cage would sound half so eerie if it weren't for Eliot's
quotation of it, and our association of it with "The Waste Land." And I
don't think it would. But it's impossible to read it now without thinking of Eliot.

The thing about the Belated Quotation Effect is that it makes for a sort of reversal of chronology: Text A was created first, and Text B, which quotes Text A, came afterward. But if you encounter Text B first, something funny happens to your perception of both. The quotation keeps some of the flavor of wherever you've heard it quoted. The earlier author can seem almost to be quoting the later one, rather than the other way around.* And it's the anachronistic effect that interests me.

No real conclusions to this ongoing train of thought, except to say "Isn't intertextuality neat?" Have any of you noticed the Belated Quotation Effect?

* Harold Bloom says something similar in The Anxiety of Influence, and, although most of what I've read of Bloom's work makes me break out in hives of annoyance, I do think it's an interesting idea.

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