restricted access Lyric History: Temporality, Rhetoric, and the Ethics of Poetry


In this essay, I am less interested in the specifics of the on-going polemics around the "new lyricism," than I am in the problematics of historical engagement and ethical implication that subtend them and open onto more general problematics of textuality, history, and interpretation that lyrics often foreground. These problematics do not obviate the importance of historical considerations in lyrical reading, nor do they undermine the crucial importance of history itself in our social and political lives. To refocus critical attention on poetry's connection with its readers and the world, as in the new lyric studies, also reminds us that lyric has a rhetorical aspect and that the indeterminacies of lyric's representation of a recollected moment of being or experience cannot be resolved by appeals to history as a ground for interpretation. The meaning of lyric and its engagement with the world exists in the futurity of its reader, the unpredictable phenomenology of its reception. Paradoxically, the historicization of lyric reminds us that history itself has a lyrical aspect. It combines recollection and projection, a statement of a past experience or state of being addressed to the subjectivity of a future reader or audience whose