At the Brink of Infinity: Poetic Humility in Boundless by James E. von der Heydt

By James E. von der Heydt

From pop culture to politics to vintage novels, quintessentially American texts take their idea from the belief of infinity. within the striking literary century inaugurated via Ralph Waldo Emerson, the lyric too looked as if it would stumble upon chances as unlimited because the U.S. mind's eye. This increases the query: What occurs while boundlessness is greater than only a determine of speech? Exploring new horizons is something, yet truly taking a look at the horizon itself is anything altogether diversified. during this rigorously crafted research, James von der Heydt shines a brand new gentle at the lyric craft of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill and considers how their seascape-vision redefines poetry's purpose.Emerson famously freed U.S. literature from its prior and opened it as much as vastness; within the following century, a succession of great, rigorous poets took the philosophical demanding situations of such freedom all too heavily. dealing with the unmarked horizon, Emersonian poets capture—and are captured by—a stark, astringent model of human good looks. Their uncompromising visions of limitlessness reclaim infinity's right legacy—and supply American poetry its side. Von der Heydt's ebook recovers the secret in their global.

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Juxtaposing extremes of scale — eye and horizon — this handling of size differs fundamentally from the successful pragmatic negotiation with space and representation. In a pragmatic reading of nature, as in most successful literary-critical technique, the “map of its march” is simply scaled to the size of the footprint, the footprint scaled to the size of the land. The two are superimposed: if they correspond, we are pleased by aesthetic unity; if they contradict, we are equally pleased by irony or incongruity.

103). ” The essence of the phenomenon is encapsulated in the phrase “point of astonishment”: for Emerson, we are not adequate to the primal fact about any vista in nature. ” The th e be achcom ber’s hor izon | 15 two-inch capsule of nerves and aqueous humor, drawing the world into itself, is here brought into immediate relation with the opposite figure, the horizon, opening ever outward. The complexity of this inside-out interaction vexes Emerson’s knowledge. Juxtaposing extremes of scale — eye and horizon — this handling of size differs fundamentally from the successful pragmatic negotiation with space and representation.

Critics often neglect the spatial contrasts that give passages like this one their energy; this is true whether those readings decry or debunk Emerson’s gigantism. For the recent Americanist critics who can be gathered under the heading of “pragmatism,” an imprinting, tactile immediacy affirms and exercises human suppleness in a way that experience of the sea cannot. 2 The dynamic mediation at the heart of these readings gives poetry a more humane mode, chastening without eliminating its ambition as it brings it into experience.

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