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The Fourth Dimension of a Poem: And Other Essays
     

The Fourth Dimension of a Poem: And Other Essays

by M. H. Abrams, Harold Bloom (Foreword by)
 

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A new collection of essays by the legendary literary scholar and critic.
In the year of his one-hundredth birthday, preeminent literary critic, scholar, and teacher M. H. Abrams brings us a collection of nine new and recent essays that challenge the reader to think about poetry in new ways. In these essays, three of them never before published, Abrams engages

Overview

A new collection of essays by the legendary literary scholar and critic.
In the year of his one-hundredth birthday, preeminent literary critic, scholar, and teacher M. H. Abrams brings us a collection of nine new and recent essays that challenge the reader to think about poetry in new ways. In these essays, three of them never before published, Abrams engages afresh with pivotal figures in intellectual and literary history, among them Kant, Keats, and Hazlitt. The centerpiece of the volume is Abrams’s eloquent and incisive essay “The Fourth Dimension of a Poem” on the pleasure of reading poems aloud, accompanied by online recordings of Abrams’s revelatory readings of poems such as William Wordsworth’s “Surprised by Joy,” Alfred Tennyson’s “Here Sleeps the Crimson Petal,” and Ernest Dowson’s “Cynara.” The collection begins with a foreword by Abrams’s former student Harold Bloom.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With "a stubborn predilection for finding out what a poem determinately means," renowned 100-year-old scholar Abrams (The Mirror and the Lamp) explores a variety of literary subjects in this insightful new collection, which includes studies of Keats and Hazlitt, the foundations of modern aesthetics, the state of literary humanism, and the titular "fourth dimension" of a poem, defined as "the activity of enunciating the great variety of speech-sounds that constitute words." Abrams's general stance in these essays is humanistic, maintaining that literature is "composed by a human being, for human beings, and about human beings." His style reflects his attitude. Using "the ordinary language that has been developed... to deal with... the human predicament," Abrams conveys his deep love and understanding of literature to a general audience with reasoned expositions and close readings. The title essay is especially noteworthy, as is "How to Prove an Interpretation," an investigation into the hermeneutic process that doubles as a concise essay on how to read well. This volume is not only a worthy production by one of the great scholars of his generation, but a penetrating contribution to "the unceasing, diverse, and unpredictable dialogue... of readers with literary works and of readers with each other." (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A former professor and distinguished literary critic who will reach his 100th birthday this year offers a collection of essays and speeches dealing with the art of poetry and the nature of criticism. A founding editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Abrams (Doing Things With Texts: Essays in Criticism and Critical Theory, 1989, etc.) shows he remains both in firm command of his craft and a sturdy defender of the traditional views of literature that the author-absent New Criticism threatened to sweep away. Here, for example, is a lengthy, cogent argument about Wordsworth's meaning of the line, "A slumber did my spirit seal." Was the poet writing another Dead Lucy poem? Or was the spirit entombed? Another piece deals with, and generally dismisses, the idea of the removal of the author's biography and intent from literary criticism. Abrams argues for a criticism that recognizes a literature "composed by a human being, for human beings, and about human beings and matters of human concern." The author emphasizes this theme throughout the collection. The title essay deals with the physical/physiological aspects of reading a poem aloud--the ways that poets move our tongues in our mouths to affect the effects and meanings of the words. Abrams also includes pieces about the evolving view of nature in our literature, a long piece about Kant and art that alludes to everyone from Plato to Poe and beyond, an essay about the journey in Western literature (from the Bible to Eliot), and a crisp tribute to critic William Hazlitt. Abrams recognizes that Hazlitt worked from the individual sentence forward--seeing where each sentence would lead him before composing the next. A pleasant whiff of nostalgia for old libraries and older books, gently held and translated for us by a man who loves them.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393058307
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/03/2012
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
908,805
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

M. H. Abrams (1912—2015) was Class of 1916 Professor of English, Emeritus at Cornell University. He received the Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Prize for The Mirror and the Lamp and the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize for Natural Supernaturalism. He is also the author of The Milk of Paradise, A Glossary of Literary Terms, The Correspondent Breeze, and Doing Things with Texts. He is the recipient of Guggenheim, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Postwar fellowships, the Award in Humanistic Studies from the Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984), the Distinguished Scholar Award by the Keats-Shelley Society (1987), and the Award for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1990). In 1999 The Mirror and the Lamp was ranked twenty-fifth among the Modern Library's "100 best nonfiction books written in English during the twentieth century."

The Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, Harold Bloom (b. 1930) has been hailed as “one of our greatest living literary critics” (Los Angeles Times).

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