Poetry and the Fate of the Senses

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What is the role of the senses in the creation and reception of poetry? How does poetry carry on the long tradition of making experience and suffering understood by others? With Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, Susan Stewart traces the path of the aesthetic in search of an explanation for the role of poetry in culture. Herself an acclaimed poet, Stewart not only brings the intelligence of a critic to the question of poetry, but the insight of a practitioner as well. Her new study includes close discussions of poems by Stevens, Hopkins, Keats, Hardy, Bishop, and Traherne, of the sense of vertigo in Baroque and Romantic works, and of the rich tradition of nocturnes in visual, musical, and verbal art. Ultimately, she argues that poetry can counter the denigration of the senses in contemporary life and can expand our imagination of the range of human expression.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"The historical body of poetic forms is more and more an archive of lost sensual experiences the sound of wind in uninhabited spaces; the weight of ripe things not yet harvested." In Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, poet and critic Susan Stewart (On Longing) tracks poetry's sensual engagements, drawing on a truly incredible number of classical and modern canonical texts to show how poetry constructs its peculiar phenomenologies. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Stewart, a poet, professor, and MacArthur Fellow, ambitiously traces "the path of the aesthetic in search of an explanation for the role of poetry in our culture." In a book much like Burke's On the Sublime or Kant's Observations on the Sublime, Stewart tacks from darkness and grief to sound, poetic voice, lyric possession, the deictic now (measure and time), and the nocturne. She contends that poetry "makes tangible, visible, and audible the contours of our shared humanity," that it "sustains and transforms the threshold between individual and social existence." Drawing from many examples of poetry, from the ancient Greeks to the postmoderns, she explores the interplay between somatic apprehensions (sound, listening, touch, vertigo) and formal orders. Both physically and poetically big, this book is recommended for those studying the metaphysics of poetry. Scott Hightower, Fordham Univ., New York Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226774138
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 458
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Stewart is the Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and a MacArthur Fellow. She is the author of three books of poems, most recently The Forest, as well as many works of literary and art criticism, including On Longing and Crimes of Writing.
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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 In the Darkness
I The Privations of Night and the Origins of Poiesis 1
II Laughter, Weeping, and the Order of the Senses 17
III The Lyric Eidos 38
Ch. 2 Sound
I Dynamics of Poetic Sound 59
II Hopkins: Invocation and Listening 90
Ch. 3 Voice and Possession
I The Beloved's Voice 107
II Three Cases of Lyric Possession 124
Ch. 4 Facing, Touch, and Vertigo
I The Experience of Beholding 145
II Touch in Aesthetic Forms 160
III Vertigo: The Legacy of Baroque Ecstasy 178
Ch. 5 The Forms and Numbers of Time
I The Deictic Now 197
II Traces of Human Motion: The Ubi Sunt Tradition 208
III Meditation and Number: Traherne's Centuries 227
IV The Problem of Poetic History 242
Ch. 6 Out of the Darkness: Nocturnes
I Finch's Transformation of the Night Work 255
II The Emergence of a Nocturne Tradition 280
Ch. 7 Lyric counter Epic
I War and the Alienation of the Senses 293
II Two Lyric Critiques of Epic: Brooks and Walcott 309
Afterborn 327
Notes 335
References 389
Index of Poems 429
General Index 433
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