On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word

By Angela Leighton

What's shape? Why does shape topic? during this innovative and bold research, Angela Leighton assesses not just the legacy of Victorian aestheticism, and its richly imaginative key-phrase, 'form', but in addition the very nature of the literary. She indicates how writers, for 2 centuries and extra, have lower back to the assumption of shape as whatever which incorporates the key of artwork itself. She tracks the advance of the observe from the Romantics to modern poets, and provides shut readings of, between others, Tennyson, Pater, Woolf, Yeats, Stevens, and Plath, to teach how shape has supplied the one most crucial manner of accounting for the activities of literary language itself. She investigates, for example, the outdated debate of shape and content material, of shape as track or sound-shape, because the ghostly dynamic and dynamics of a textual content, in addition to its lengthy organization with the aestheticist precept of being 'for nothing'. In a wide-ranging and artistic argument, she means that shape is the major to the excitement of the literary textual content, and that that excitement is a part of what literary feedback itself must solution and convey.

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Denis Donoghue, Walter Pater: Lover of wierd Souls (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 220. ¹⁹ Pater, The Renaissance, 117. paintings for paintings 35 20th century, he nonetheless doesn't altogether leave. Woolf’s prose is soaked in him. Joyce’s parody feeds on him. Yeats was once haunted all his existence via these ‘wavering, meditative, natural rhythms’ of the Nineties’ cult of ‘beauty’,²⁰ even if, after 1916, ‘beauty’ had develop into ‘terrible’. ²¹ Even T. S. Eliot, who vehemently denied his debt to Pater, blaming him, in a fairly underhand circumlocution, for being ‘not entirely irresponsible for a few untidy lives’,²² should be seduced every now and then via a lyrical reminiscence, spell binding ‘the maytime with an old flute’. ²³ So artwork for art’s sake—to look for a legacy of that word within the 20th century is to show up just a citation right here and there. but apparently, even supposing the word would appear to move out of style with the appearance of modernism, it doesn't fullyyt disappear. in reality, it's unbelievable simply how a lot it keeps to serve writers, occasionally defensively, occasionally apologetically, as a precept against use. so as to not be for anything—history, politics, or morality, for instance—art is for artwork. This brief circuit fends off the very issues literary feedback will need to herald: argument, message, that means, relevance. Such preciousness, in spite of the fact that, works through stressing its personal fragility. opposed to the strength of every little thing open air, paintings for artwork may be a shelter of glass. The ‘descendentalism’, as Mark Edmundson calls it, of a lot twentieth-century feedback, the necessity to provide ‘a speedy shipping to subterranean bedrock’,²⁴ even if cultural, psychoanalytic, or political, drives paintings into purposefully achievable flooring. might be, too, there's a trace of self-justification within the act. this can be the paintings that feedback is made to do, hence overcoming its personal nervousness of relevance. however the precept of irrelevance, of being ‘for nothing’, is overlooked at peril. to recognize the ‘nothing’ on the middle of the literary is a fashion of commencing to ask what the paintings understands, and for that reason of trying to regulate the very phrases of understanding. this isn't similar to asserting that ideological readings are beside the point. it is extremely to signify that whatever consistently pulls opposed to relevance, and reference. but it is defined, shape, variety, attractiveness, ²⁰ W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions (London: Macmillan, 1961), 163. ²¹ W. B. Yeats, The Variorum variation of the Poems of W. B. Yeats, ed. Peter Allt and Russell okay. Alspach (New York: Macmillan, 1957), 392. ²² T. S. Eliot, ‘Arnold and Pater’, in chosen Essays: 1917 –1932 (London: Faber, 1932), 379–91, 390. ²³ T. S. Eliot, entire Poems and performs (London: Faber, 1969), ninety three. ²⁴ Mark Edmundson, Literature opposed to Philosophy, Plato to Derrida: A Defence of Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge collage Press, 1995), 22. 36 paintings for paintings tune, it comprises finding what's ‘for not anything’ within the text—a form of fortunate cut price. As Schiller as soon as positioned it, in a passage which jewelry down the 19th century from Shelley to Pater to Wilde: ‘the agreeable, the nice, the proper, with those guy is purely in earnest; yet with good looks he performs.

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