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

By Angela Leighton

What's shape? Why does shape topic? during this ingenious and bold examine, Angela Leighton assesses not just the legacy of Victorian aestheticism, and its richly innovative key-phrase, 'form', but in addition the very nature of the literary. She exhibits how writers, for 2 centuries and extra, have lower back to the belief of shape as anything which includes the key of paintings itself. She tracks the improvement 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 means of accounting for the events of literary language itself. She investigates, for example, the outdated debate of shape and content material, of shape as song or sound-shape, because the ghostly dynamic and dynamics of a textual content, in addition to its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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By Angela Leighton

What's shape? Why does shape topic? during this ingenious and bold examine, Angela Leighton assesses not just the legacy of Victorian aestheticism, and its richly innovative key-phrase, 'form', but in addition the very nature of the literary. She exhibits how writers, for 2 centuries and extra, have lower back to the belief of shape as anything which includes the key of paintings itself. She tracks the improvement 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 means of accounting for the events of literary language itself. She investigates, for example, the outdated debate of shape and content material, of shape as song or sound-shape, because the ghostly dynamic and dynamics of a textual content, in addition to its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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This is able to be a figure for the entire types in Yeats. no one is familiar with whether it is made from playing cards, or of not anything. however it is ‘quick’, as though the actual fact of operating supplies it existence, substance, whether it all started as a trifling want within the brain. Yeats’s skill to imagine unallegorically, to show a lady right into a hare ‘as speedy as any hare that ever lived’, is the major to his poetry’s abnormal energy. He makes use of animals to indicate an estranged, but crucial rhythm into which the human could slip. Hanrahan’s hare, even if made from playing cards or ‘made out of nothing’, is ‘quick’ sufficient to be chased. In autumn 1918, Yeats despatched Iseult Gonne ‘Two Songs of a Fool’. within the first, the idiot guards his ‘speckled cat’ and ‘tame hare’ via the fire, yet suffers from a crippling feel of ‘responsibilities’ (380). The notice remembers the quantity of 1914, with its nameless epigraph: ‘In desires starts accountability. ’ however it additionally recollects the obligations Yeats himself felt approximately Iseult’s mom, Maud. In a passage from Autobiographies he toys with the be aware, remembering how, in the course of a violent march led via her, he misplaced his voice and used to be not able to offer a speech, being hence ‘freed from responsibility’. Then, finding within the subsequent day’s newspapers ‘that many were wounded’, he's drawn again to a feeling of accountability, considering if he may still ‘count the hyperlinks within the chain of accountability, run them throughout my fingers, and beauty if any hyperlink there's from my workshop’. ⁵⁵ even if ‘Two Songs of a idiot’ is for Iseult, it truly is riddled with Yeats’s emotions approximately his poetic tasks in terms of Maud Gonne’s politics. The prayer to be eased of ‘My nice obligations’ on the finish of half I is replied, partially II, whilst he imagines how the hare may break out: Who is familiar with how she drank the wind Stretched up on legs from the mat, sooner than she had settled her brain To drum together with her heel and to jump? (381) If the hare is Maud—‘even on the starting-post, all glossy and new, | I observed the wildness in her’ (619), he writes in ‘A Bronze Head’—the woman’s bid for freedom is an answer in addition to a loss. In a slightly advanced reassessment of his love for her, the poem frees her, and the poet is eased ⁵³ the key Rose, tales via W. B. Yeats: A Variorum variation, second edn revised and enlarged, ed. Warwick Gould, Phillip L. Marcus, and Michael J. Sidnell (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992), 88. ⁵⁴ Ibid. 89. ⁵⁵ Yeats, Autobiographies, 277. 168 Yeats’s ft of his ‘responsibilities’. yet even with no this autobiographical analyzing, the hare, that is additionally a lady, is going the way in which of all hares. Its leaving is dramatic, powerful—the emotional element of the poem. Who is familiar with if it was once a hare or a girl? Who understands the place it went? what's transparent is that drumming of heels after which the ‘leap’. because the hare escapes, it's the ft that we listen, the rhythm of its drumming at the flooring, the final thud ahead of the ‘leap’. within the similar quantity, the fast poem ‘Memory’ additionally recollects a hare, yet the following the creature has already long gone, leaving in basic terms its imprint in the back of: ‘the mountain grass | can't yet hold the shape’ (350) of it.

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