by showing ... <and> by finding ...

ironman2012

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

Ever since Shakespeare wrote the sonnet They That Have Power to Hurt, people thought they knew what it meant. But in 1935 a young British critic named William Empson told them they did not. The sonnet, he announced, contains 4,096 possible meanings. He then presented some of them by showing the sonnet's ambiguous use of words, metaphors and punctuation, by finding half-buried references to Machiavelli and King Solomon and even prophetic hints of Oscar Wilde.

(This comes from Scratching at Beauty on my English reading material. It seems to originate from time.com.)

I wonder if an "and" is needed before "by finding...", like "books and pens" (two objects combined together). Or is the "and" optional? Is it OK to write "...by showing ..., and by finding", "... by showing... and by finding"?

Thanks in advance!
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    It is very perceptive of you to notice this grammatically dubious construction.
    It doesn't even make much sense to correct it in the way you have attempted, because he would not literally find these references and hints during a presentation, but he would show those that he had already found during his research.
     

    ironman2012

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    he would show those that he had already found during his research.
    He then presented some of them by showing ..., by finding ...
    Does that mean "by finding..." modify "showing"? I also don't understand why "show..., by finding..." mean "show...had already found"?
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Does that mean "by finding..." modify "showing"?
    No. As I said, the text does not stand up to rigid grammatical analysis. It contains an error.
    I also don't understand why "show..., by finding..." mean "show...had already found"?
    It doesn't. It is apparent from context that that is what it must mean, but the actual text in its present form doesn't mean that.

    It has just occurred to me that this might have originally been intended to be a list of three things. He presented some of the 4096 possible meanings by doing the following three things:
    (1) by showing the ambiguous use of words, metaphors, and puctuation,
    (2) by finding half-buried references to Machiavelli and King Solomon (where "finding them" really means saying that he had found them, and then pointing them out to his audience),
    (3) and even by finding prophetic hints of Oscar Wilde.

    Normally in lists we put "and" before the last item only, instead of before each except the first, and it's possible the "and even" before "prophetic hints" was originally "and even by finding", and was subsequently edited to avoid repetition of "by finding". This putative edit was done carelessly and had the effect of making it look as though the "and" is no longer part of a three-item list, but that the original items 2 and 3 have been merged, and that the "and" is now connecting the two sub-items of the new item 2 ("by finding X and even Y"). If the "and" has thus been absorbed into the second item, there is now an "and" missing between the first and the second item. I suggest the following modified version would be easier to parse:

    He then presented some of them by showing the sonnet's ambiguous use of words, metaphors and punctuation, and by finding half-buried references to Machiavelli and King Solomon and even prophetic hints of Oscar Wilde.

    This sentence is still a bit heavy, not helped by there now being four "and"s in it.
     

    ironman2012

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you for your detailed explanation. It helps a lot.
    but he would show those that he had already found during his research.
    He then presented some of them by showing...

    I suddenly realized that the red "show" is not the same "show" in "by showing...", instead it is another way to say "present" in "He then presented". Am I correct?
     
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