Breathing space: Infancy and aesthetics in 19-century British poetry and poetics. David B. Ruderman

ISBN: 9780549993926

Published:

264 pages


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Breathing space: Infancy and aesthetics in 19-century British poetry and poetics.  by  David B. Ruderman

Breathing space: Infancy and aesthetics in 19-century British poetry and poetics. by David B. Ruderman
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This dissertation investigates the concept of infancy in nineteenth-century British poetry and poetics. Usually read as symptomatic of sentimental ideology, infancy in romantic and Victorian era poetry in fact offers a radical critique of... MoreThis dissertation investigates the concept of infancy in nineteenth-century British poetry and poetics.

Usually read as symptomatic of sentimental ideology, infancy in romantic and Victorian era poetry in fact offers a radical critique of poetic/philosophical/cultural narratives of progress and normativity. My dissertation reveals the ways in which spatial and temporal disturbances associated with the space of infancy and often signaled by formal breaks within the poem suggest a more radical aesthetic and ontology of the subject.

These revisions further suggest an alternative model for reading centered on an ethical awareness of immediate environments.-Chapter one builds a reception history of William Wordsworths Intimations Ode, examining the disparate ways in which Wordsworths concepts of immortality and infancy were received by Mathew Arnold and J. S. Mill and suggesting a poetics at work in the poem that is positional and fluid rather than hierarchical and fixed. Chapter two considers the poetry and prose of Erasmus Darwin and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and argues for two competing aesthetic theories, corresponding roughly to organic form and symbolization, arising from prose descriptions of the baby at the mothers breast.

Chapter three uses original archival research---readings of poems, letters, journals, and essays---to examine Sara Coleridges fall into and emergence from a period of post-partum depression, an experience I read as a spiritual and aesthetic experience rather than merely psychological and medical. My final chapter focuses on Alfred Tennysons stillborn poetics, that is, his desire to have his poems be in the world but not to circulate, a dilemma that he partially resolves through a formal engagement with ballad measure.-Breathing Space contributes to studies of the child, focusing on infancy as a concept rather than a field of representation.

It engages with debates within Tennyson, Wordsworth, and Coleridge studies, as well as within the studies of romanticism and Victorian literature. Certain psychoanalytic terms and concepts are applied in order to perform a reciprocal critique---poetry to theory and vice versa. Finally, Breathing Space contributes to the study of poetry and poetics more generally, proposing a model of reverberative reading that moves beyond reader-response criticism.



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