Download Lyric Shame: The "Lyric" Subject of Contemporary American by Gillian White PDF

By Gillian White

Bringing a provocative viewpoint to the poetry wars that experience divided practitioners and critics for many years, Gillian White argues that the pointy disagreements surrounding modern poetics were formed by means of “lyric shame”―an unstated yet pervasive embarrassment over what poetry is, will be, and fails to be.

Favored rather through sleek American poets, lyric poetry has lengthy been thought of an expression of the writer’s innermost ideas and emotions. yet by means of the Seventies the “lyric I” had develop into persona non grata in literary circles. Poets and critics accused each other of “identifying” with lyric, which more and more bore the stigma of egotism and political backwardness. In shut readings of Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Sexton, Bernadette Mayer, James Tate, and others, White examines the social and demanding dynamics during which convinced poems turn into pointed out as “lyric,” arguing that the time period refers much less to a particular literary style than to an summary method of projecting subjectivity onto poems. Arguments approximately even if lyric poetry is deserving of compliment or censure circle round what White calls “the lacking lyric object”: an idealized poem that's nowhere and but far and wide, and that is the made of interpreting practices that either the advocates and detractors of lyric impose on poems. Drawing on present traits in either have an effect on and lyric conception, Lyric Shame unsettles the assumptions that tell a lot modern poetry feedback and explains why the emotional, confessional expressivity attributed to American lyric has develop into so controversial.

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Example text

And yet, as Sedgwick’s comments suggest, the shaming of a poem for being too personal, too credulous of its “I” (its importance, its reality), can seem in effect to produce the very “self” that the accusation of shame was INTRODUCTION 29 meant to identify and diminish—to construct, even in the hope of diminishing or denying it, the idealized self or ego-ideal. In a 1958 essay on the “nature” of shame, Helen Merrell Lynd describes the experience as involving “astonishment at seeing different parts of ourselves, conscious and unconscious, acknowledged and unacknowledged, suddenly coming together.

7 That neither the shameful expressive “lyric” nor its antilyric counterpart describes most of Bishop’s poetry registers in her seeming to be caught, wavering, between what “being a poet” is thought to imply and what she 44 LY R I C S H A M E herself has “felt” in writing poems, ample reason to look again at her already well-known work and the lyric shame it can be asked to bear. Several of the critical modes regarding Bishop’s work have, in moments, rendered her a shame-inducing love for me. I am inclined to moments of shame about loving Bishop’s poems no doubt because my critical identification with her is strong.

Critics have struggled to read Bishop’s turn toward a more “personal” poetics in the midcentury, in part because neither the pride nor the shame attributed to the Confessional seems to describe that work, and avant-garde lyric-reading strategies only exaggerate (with shame) its supposed investments in “voice” and managed tone. I focus on a range of “personal” poems in Bishop’s 1950s work, collected in Questions of Travel, to argue that they are best read as her answer to the question of how to “revolt” at a point when every available form of poetic subjectivity (including those produced by Beats, “Confessionals,” and midcentury teacher-poets) seemed to her 38 LY R I C S H A M E overinvested in expression and all too coincident with American wealth and exceptionalism.

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