Theory of the Lyric

Theory of the Lyric

by Jonathan Culler


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What sort of thing is a lyric poem? An intense expression of subjective experience? The fictive speech of a specifiable persona? Theory of the Lyric reveals the limitations of these two conceptions of the lyric—the older Romantic model and the modern conception that has come to dominate the study of poetry—both of which neglect what is most striking and compelling in the lyric and falsify the long and rich tradition of the lyric in the West. Jonathan Culler explores alternative conceptions offered by this tradition, such as public discourse made authoritative by its rhythmical structures, and he constructs a more capacious model of the lyric that will help readers appreciate its range of possibilities.

Theory of the Lyric brings Culler’s own earlier, more scattered interventions together with an eclectic selection from others’ work in service to what he identifies as a dominant need of the critical and pedagogical present: turning readers’ attention to lyric poems as verbal events, not fictions of impersonated speech. His fine, nuanced readings of particular poems and kinds of poems are crucial to his arguments. His observations on the workings of aspects of lyric across multiple different structures are the real strength of the book. It is a work of practical criticism that opens speculative vistas for poetics but always returns to poems.”
—Elizabeth Helsinger, Critical Theory

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674979703
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 11/06/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 1,234,471
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Culler is Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Cornell University.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction 1

1 An Inductive Approach 10

Nine Poems 10

Four Parameters 33

2 Lyric as Genre 39

Notions of Genre 40

Lyric History 49

Lyric Genre 77

3 Theories of the Lyric 91

Hegel 92

Imitation Speech Acts or Epideixis? 109

Performative and Performance 125

4 Rhythm and Repetition 132

Meter 142

Rhythm 161

Sound and Repetition 173

5 Lyric Address 186

Address to Listeners or Readers 191

Addressing Other People 201

Apostrophe 211

6 Lyric Structures 244

Mapping the lyric 246

Lyric Hyperbole 258

Dramatic Monologue 263

Framing Past Events 275

The Lyric Present 283

7 Lyric and Society 296

Engagement and Disengagement 297

Three Examples 307

Adorno's Dialectic 331

Tangling with Ideology 336

Conclusion 349

Notes 355

Index 385

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