Active Romanticism: The Radical Impulse in

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Literary background mostly locates the first circulation towards poetic innovation in twentieth-century modernism, an impulse performed opposed to a supposedly enervated “late-Romantic” poetry of the 19th century. the unique essays in lively Romanticism problem this interpretation through tracing the elemental continuities among Romanticism’s poetic and political radicalism and the experimental activities in poetry from the late-nineteenth-century to the current day.

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Additional info for Active Romanticism: The Radical Impulse in Nineteenth-Century and Contemporary Poetic Practice (Modern & Contemporary Poetics)

Sample text

We sing to hear that other singing—a song that cannot be heard save against the music of our own voice. It is this genius that repairs us (this genius always imperfectly other), and repairs not only us, but our relation to the world we sing about. To hear it is to be changed by it. When Thoreau puts his ear to the post and finds music in every gap, he also establishes a radical metonymy. The telegraph pole extends his ear, resonates not only with the music that fills it, but simultaneously with the ability to perceive that music.

Something is seen; someone sees it. It is a reductive definition, but perhaps a useful one, to say the poetic process perceives an exterior world the perception of which internalizes, that the mind in its amalgamation of memory and imagination recognizes that world and seeks a language by which to describe it. It is awfully simple, but maybe necessary to say, that the poem is that description. It is just as important to say, and perhaps more difficult, that the poem undermines the stability of the boundary that keeps self and world separate, and simultaneously undoes the ease of its own definitive urge, defining world in order to torment that definition with doubt.

I don’t want to be tragic, even to the goldleafed bug. I, Walt Whitman, with Texas in my mouth. Dismiss this fantasy in favor of our startled shade. I remembered my tricks and what they did. Even apples aren’t free. Our life against the midnight lens: poor Crusoe on Mars. I’m walking through this wall of air to comfort my senate” (74). The capitol at midnight was, for Whitman, a dreamlike vision; the capitol of the capital, housing legislative bodies within the crowded, lonely, and erotically charged city.

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