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eBook Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism ePub

eBook Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism ePub

by Susan J. Wolfson

  • ISBN: 0804736626
  • Category: History and Criticism
  • Subcategory: Literature
  • Author: Susan J. Wolfson
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Pages: 360
  • ePub book: 1293 kb
  • Fb2 book: 1518 kb
  • Other: mobi mbr lit txt
  • Rating: 4.7
  • Votes: 503

Description

The publication of Susan Wolfson's.

The publication of Susan Wolfson's. book Formal Charges is a terribly important event, not only in the history of Romantic Studies, but in the history of the theoretical discourses currently questioning whether the study of literature should become Cultural Studies, and asking to what extent the practice of aesthetic appreciation should be abandoned for political criticism. Romanticism on the Net). A fine book that consciously flies in the face of prevailing critical currents through its detailed emphasis on poetic form in the big six Romantic poets. Romanticism on the Net. More in Literary Studies. The Converso's Return.

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for political criticism

Susan J. Wolfson is Professor of English at Princeton University.

Susan J. She received her PhD from University of California, Berkeley and, previous to Princeton, taught for thirteen years at Rutgers University New Brunswick.

Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN O 4. In Formal Charges Susan Wolfson has written one of the best and brightest books on Romantic poetry for many years. The tasks she sets herself are formidable; her achievement is undoubted.

Published by Stanford University Press, 1862. Publisher: Stanford University Press Publication Date: 1862 Book Condition: Good. AbeBooks offers millions of new, used, rare and out-of-print books, as well as cheap textbooks from thousands of booksellers around the world.

Why care about poetic form and its intricacies, other than in nostalgia for a bygone era of criticism?

Poetry Literary Criticism Books.

Poetry Literary Criticism Books. Wolfson is Professor of English at Princeton University

Susan J.

Why care about poetic form and its intricacies, other than in nostalgia for a bygone era of criticism? The purpose of this book is to refresh today this care for criticism, applying a historically aware formalist reading to poetic form in Romanticism and showing how in theory and practice Romantic writers addressed, debated, tested, and contested fundamental questions about what is at stake in the poetic forming of language. In the process, it suggests the importance of these conflicted inquiries for contemporary critical discussion and demonstrates the pleasures of attending to the complex changes of form in poetic writing. After an introductory chapter on the controversies about poetic form and formalism from the Romantic era to our own, succeeding chapters consider particular instances in Romantic poetry in which experimental agendas or unsettled traditions promote an awareness of new textual possibilities. The author shows how Blake's Poetical Sketches predicts many of the key issues of Romantic theory and practice, and how Coleridge's ambivalent engagement with simile impels him to address the very foundations of poetic form. A chapter on Wordsworth's revision of an episode in The Prelude demonstrates how a repeated reworking of form virtually characterizes the work of autobiography, and the dilemma of self-formation is also the focus of a chapter on Byron's seemingly perverse choice of the heroic couplet in The Corsair. Keats, too, is shown to wrestle with the issue of self and form at the end of his career in his personal lyrics to Fanny Browne, which subverted the formalism of the "Great Odes" of 1819, the celebrated icons of New Criticism. A final chapter describes Shelley's investment of poetic performance with social agency in two seemingly opposite but related modes―the political exhortation of The Mask of Anarchy and the intimate addresses to Jane and Edward Williams. In an afterword, the author reviews recent attacks on formalist criticism and argues for the specific value of shaped language as one of the texts in which culture is written and revised.

Comments

NiceOne NiceOne
This is a wonderfully argued work, combining a defense of formalist criticism with an erudite argument about British Romantic poetry's awareness of the formalist conventions in which it participates. The readings of the five canonical Romantic poets--Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Byron, and Shelley--that Wolfson executes here are highly original and compelling and are certain to affect future considerations of the works about which she writes. Perhaps more far-reaching is her introductory chapter, "Formal Intelligence: Formalism, Romanticism, and Formalist Criticism" which provides a detailed account of the interwoven careers of historicism and formalism in the Anglo-American literary critical tradition. The discussion in that chapter is sure to be useful to students of literary criticism for years to come.
Dellevar Dellevar
In this meticulously argued book, Susan Wolfson pursues two distinct but closely related projects: a defense of formalist criticism and an argument about Romantic poetry's awareness of the formal conventions in which it participates. While both projects are fully developed and expertly argued, the second is a result of the first, an example of the insights that might follow from the evolved formalism Wolfson outlines in the book's introduction and brief afterword. The first project, therefore, most immediately commands our attention. Wolfson's defense of formalism also commands our attention because of its courage and polemical fervor. In the contemporary critical climate, the formalist critic receives little respect, viewed by its most generous detractors as retrograde and by its harshest as reactionary and inimical to social progress. The title of Wolfson's book, Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism, slyly alludes to the outlaw status of the formalist critic. Formalism's stained reputation can, no doubt, be attributed to the excesses of its most influential and controversial incarnation, New Criticism; but, as Wolfson notes, New Criticism is not the whole story of formalism. Despite attempts by later theoretical modes to move beyond formalism, form has proven tenacious, if only because form defines the object of study. While it has persisted, formalism has also been severely weakened as critical attention has shifted from the intricacies of poetic formings of language to the social and historical contexts in which works are produced. If Wolfson's title alludes to the outlaw status of the formalist critic, it also suggests that form is the "charge" or obligation of the literary critic, a charge to which criticism of the last twenty years has been derelict in attending. In her introductory chapter, "Formal Intelligence: Formalism, Romanticism, and Formalist Criticism," in which she provides a thorough account of the interwoven careers of formalism and Romanticism, Wolfson takes aim at the anti-formalist reactions that have leveled the most serious blows to formalist theory and practice. These reactions can be generally classified under the rubrics of deconstruction and New Historicism. While deconstruction was certainly a potent force in the dissolution of formalism's hold on critical practice, it has too been supplanted, leaving the now-dominant New Historicism as Wolfson's most formidable opponent. Under the umbrella of New Historicism, one finds such familiar figures as Jerome McGann and Marjorie Levinson as well as others, such as Terry Eagleton and Pierre Bourdieu, who are usually classified in other categories. Uniting this disparate group of theorists is an interest in the ways in which literary form resolves social contradictions on the level of aesthetic experience. There are two main objections that Wolfson has to this account of literary form. First, the historicist declares a healthy suspicion of aesthetic forms that mask and that are complicit with prevailing ideologies, thereby liberating himself or herself from the "forms of fetishism" (Bourdieu's phrase) that manacled and blinded the New Critic. But, as Wolfson notes in a consideration of Bourdieu's "Censorship and the Imposition of Form" in the book's afterword, this method only replaces a fixation on literary form with a fixation on social form: "What is curious about these stories is the way the (purported) New Critical reification of aesthetic form, overtly despised, returns as a more pervasive ideological formation. This is still formalism, shifted from aesthetic agency to social determination" (229). While the consideration of Bourdieu's essay is fair, it is noteworthy that other arguments in his oeuvre-arguments that support Wolfson's theses-are left unexplored. In his anthropological writing, such as Outline of a Theory of Practice and Distinction, Bourdieu has seemed willing, at least in theory, to grant some agency to the object of study and to divest the critic (or, in the case of these works, ethnographer) of some of his or her interpretive authority. This directly relates to the second objection that Wolfson has to New Historicism's interest in "resolvable form" and its corollary emphasis on organic form in its treatment of the Romantics. By viewing aesthetic form as the site where historical and social contradictions and conflicts are resolved, critics like Eagleton and McGann afford form no agency in the critique of culture. Only the critic is allowed the opportunity to address the contradictions that literary form is alleged to resolve. Form itself can only register these contradictions when it ruptures or collapses. Attention to the devices of form, in this anti-formalist account of its workings, becomes an empty, almost tautological gesture. For Wolfson, this view is myopic and incites her most vituperative remarks about New Historicism's regard of form: "Too many readers today accept Eagleton's marginalizing, simplifying, or simply dismissive attention to poetic form as a labor of `reductive operations,' an exercise `preoccupied simply with analyzing linguistic devices'" (19). The bold labeling of Eagleton's approach as "simplifying" and "dismissive" is atypical in an otherwise even-handed treatment and is perhaps attributable to the sentence's emphasis on readers. If contemporary readers cause the strongest response in Wolfson, the response seems to be motivated by a genuine fear that attention to form will continue to atrophy as a generation of critics and scholars who reached maturity without a rigorous formalist background continue to pursue social context over poetic event. Although Wolfson strenuously challenges several forms of anti-formalist reaction, she ultimately does not dismiss them entirely. New Criticism's one unforgivable sin in these pages is its ahistoricism. In a brief consideration of Cleanth Brooks's The Well-Wrought Urn, Wolfson argues that anti-formalist critics and New Critical practitioners "usually elide a dialectic with historicism" that Brooks gestures toward (6). Wolfson's project seems determined to foreground this dialectic. One could argue that the "refreshed formalism" for which she argues is actually a refreshed historicism. Indeed, one of the ironies of the book is that the most compelling and far-reaching chapter, the introduction, is one that historicizes formalism rather than enacts the formalism it advocates. The refreshed formalism for which she argues is relatively and intentionally under-theorized. Wolfson proposes a focus on "poetic practices" and "poetic events," which are defined as "those stanzas, verses, meters, rhymes, and the line" (3). Focusing on these events in the performances of Romantic poetry, Wolfson contends that "Romantic poems reflect on rather than conceal their constructedness (not only aesthetic, but social and ideological)" (14). On the surface, this thesis shares much with Stuart Curran's now seminal Poetic Form and British Romanticism (1986). But, by focusing on the particular and local event instead of broader issues of genre and reception theory, Wolfson distinguishes her contribution from Curran's. She offers her formalism as a "theory in action," a decision that may leave some readers wishing for more theoretical development but one that saves her from making the types of totalizing claims she seems determined to resist. In the six chapters that follow the introduction, Wolfson deploys the unarticulated theory in thorough, highly original considerations of each of the canonical Romantic poets: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley.