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

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In this ambitious and imaginative book Angela Leighton examines the legacy of the word 'form' from Victorian aestheticism to the present. She shows how writers, for two centuries and more, have returned to the idea of form as something which, however familiar and well-worn, seems to contain the secret of art itself. She casts fresh light on familiar debates about form and content, while exploring the sense of form as music or sound-shape, as both sensual body and ghostly dynamic of the text. She argues, moreover, that form remains deeply implicated in the aestheticist principle of artistic inutility, and that this being 'for nothing' remains art's most potent and moving purpose.

Looking back to the Romantics and forward to a number of contemporary poets, she shows how ideas of form have provided the single most important way of accounting for the movements of literary language itself. Offering new readings of Tennyson, Pater, Woolf, Yeats, Stevens, and Graham, among many others, she suggests both that form is the key to the pleasures of the literary text, and that pleasure, as a form of knowledge, is something literary criticism itself needs to embody and convey.

About the Author:
Angela Leighton is Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199551934
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,529,213
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Angela Leighton is Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. She is the author of a number of books, including Shelley and the Sublime, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart, as well as many essays on nineteenth and twentieth-century literature.

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Table of Contents

Form's Matter: A Retrospective     1
Art for Art: On Pots, Crocks, Lyres, and Flutes     30
Touching Forms: Tennyson and Aestheticism     55
Aesthetic Conditions: Pater's Re-forming Style     74
Seeing Nothing: Vernon Lee's Ghostly Aesthetics     99
Just a Word: On Woolf     125
Yeats's Feet     144
Wallace Stevens' Eccentric Souvenirs     170
W. S. Graham: In the Mind's Ear     198
Forms of Elegy: Stevenson, Muldoon, Hill, Fisher     220
Elegies of Form: Bishop, Plath, Stevenson     242
Nothing, but: An Afterword     263
Bibliography     267
Index     285
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