Criticism and the Emotions
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Cover, Title Page
Introduction: The Future of Enthusiasm
This book begins with an assumption not every reader will share: that it is exciting, even viscerally exciting, to read William Blake. My premise does not deny Blake’s difficulty, a quality obvious to anyone who has ventured beyond his initial songs. Reading Blake is more often agitating than simply pleasurable, but it is an exhilarating experience nonetheless...
Part One: Devil’s Party
1. Blake’s Agitation
“Agitation” is a word always moving to and fro among its at least doubled meanings: on one side, an interior, affective state (“to feel agitated”); on the other, a political intervention, often connoting activism, sometimes even criminality (“to agitate”).1 How these paired aspects of “agitation” (active and passive...
2. Blake’s Virtue
“I am really sorry to see my Countrymen trouble themselves about Politics . . . Princes appear to me to be Fools Houses of Commons & Houses of Lords appear to me to be fools they seem to me to be something Else besides Human Life.” On the evidence of this notebook passage, one might reasonably agree...
Part Two: A Passion for Blake
Introduction: Critique of Emotional Intelligence
“Cogmotion”: a neologism so awkward one would wish to avoid it, were it not irresistible to place it alongside Blake’s image of cogs in motion, and force applied in one direction to move a wheel in another. Invented words are meant to signal the rusty inadequacy of an established lexicon, and “cogmotion” is no exception...
3. “On Anothers Sorrow”
Anyone who has known distress knows the relationship between need and speed. “If you’re gonna help me, help me now,” sang pop star Joan Armatrading; “Another ten minutes will be too late.” Whenever it can, relief must answer grief immediately, for delay adds to suffering by prolonging it. Eighteenth-century ideas of sympathy...
Toward an Auditory Imagination: Interlude on Kenzaburo Oe’s Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age
When the young men of the new age arrive, what will their imaginations sound like? Taking his novel’s title from the Preface to Milton and including, among many citations of Blake, an important reference to “On Anothers Sorrow,” Kenzaburo Oe teaches us to ask precisely this improbable question and thus to prepare...
4. Strange Pulse
Even among eighteenth-century advocates of sensibility, the danger of self-indulgence was a common theme. The sorrows of others, they complained, were too often an excuse for “[n]ursing” the pleasures of sympathy “in some delicious solitude,” as Coleridge remarked.1 Blake also had little patience for negligent self-absorption, but his...
Wordsworth’s Pulsation Machine, or the Half-Life of Mary Hutchinson: Interlude on “She was a Phantom of delight”
Any machine moving in rhythm has a pulse. Take Mary Hutchinson. Composed in honor of his “dear wife,” as Wordsworth told Isabella Fenwick, “She was a Phantom of delight” is a lyric so sentimental one might wish he had written it from any organ but the heart.1 The poem describes Mary as the manifest ideal of natural supernaturalism...
5. Criticism and the Work of Emotion
Distant from one another by more than a century, Matthew Arnold and Susan Wolfson both conclude a defense of criticism by appealing to the self-evidence of vitality. This turn to life-feeling places them in a shared history, a history of criticism at once formalist and humanist—and justifying itself in terms of an intellectual agency...
A book as long in the making as this one accrues significant debt. Many people have contributed to its development—some by generously reading early drafts, others by the gift of their own critical writing, still others by their friendship. Indeed, many have contributed in all of these ways. I thank the following colleagues...
Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 37 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013
OCLC Number: 834604137
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Blake's Agitation