Falling short, freedom, presence

It is the very fact that circumspection and determination are only partial, that they remain mobile, self-correcting, which confirms both the autonomy of the meaningful presence in the poetic and the integrity of our reception. I have said before: a good reading falls short of the text or art object by a distance, by a perimeter of inadequacy, which are themselves luminous as is the corona around the darkened sun. The falling-short is a guarantor of the experienced ‘otherness’ – the freedom to be or not to be, to enter into or abstain from a commerce of spirit with us – in the poem, the painting, the piece of music. (175)

George Steiner (1991), Real Presences