Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6

Contents

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pp. 7-8

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xvi

...More precisely still, this project began from what I felt to be the shortcomings of my previous book’s attempt to come to terms with what happens when Shelley’s last poem addresses the relationship between aesthetic and political judgment. Despite my attempts to use the...

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Introduction: “From Which One Turns Away”

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pp. 1-28

...This book is about something I am calling a radical aestheticism, the term that I believe best describes a recurring event in some of the most powerful and resonating texts of the British Romantic literary tradition. A radical aestheticism offers us the best way to reckon with what takes place at certain moments in certain texts by P. B. Shelley, Keats, Dickinson, Hopkins, D. G. Rossetti, and Wilde when aestheticized representations reach their radicalization...

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1. “A Light More Dread Than Obscurity”: Spelling and Kindling in Percy Bysshe Shelley

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pp. 29-66

...Wilde characterized the “vital tendency” of Shelley’s poetry as “the democratic and pantheistic tendency.” I call it “politics.” This is the project that animates Shelley’s poetry; and politics is the term the poet would have been likely to use and that is inseparable from his legacy. I will examine several poems that are explicitly political in their subject matter, poems Shelley would have described as “wholly political.” But my principal focus in this...

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2. “I Hold It Towards You”: Keats’s Weakness

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pp. 67-104

...Once Again,” a sonnet Keats wrote in 1818 on a page inside his folio Shakespeare, a sonnet that both anticipates and recalls the experience of reading. The poem opens with a closing and a leave-taking: an address to the “Romance,” to the “serene lute,” to what we could call the poet’s own...

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3. What the Zeros Taught: Emily Dickinson, Event-Machine

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pp. 105-144

...What the zeros taught in the forceful opening line of one especially enigmatic Dickinson poem was “Phosphorus”: “The Zeros taught Us - Phosphorus - / We learned to like the Fire” (284).1 Something comes from nothing, and that incendiary teaching leaves us with the lessons of fi re. And as in so many Dickinson poems, the eruptive force that goes from the zeros to the fi re subsequently asserts its opposite, nullifying the initiating event...

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4. Hopkins’s Sighs

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pp. 145-170

...to the force of Purcell’s music: to be “lifted and laid” is to give oneself over to the “air of angels.” And precisely in the form of its passivity, the line is an aesthetic imperative, an announcement that the speaker will submit to the sensory apprehension of sound. Such a declaration of submission to the aesthetic runs counter to the project or vocation of Hopkins’s...

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5. Superficiality: What Is Loving and What Is Dead in Dante

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pp. 171-208

...no artist appears more appropriate than Dante Gabriel Rossetti for inclusion in a study of the aestheticism that emerges in the wake of Romanticism. “Five English Poets,” the late sonnet-sequence Rossetti composed on the topic of Romantic poetry, is arguably the most engaged Victorian...

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6. “Rings, Pearls, and All”: Wilde’s Extravagance

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pp. 209-244

...Oscar Wilde poses a new and singular challenge to my argument. In each of the previous chapters, the author’s implicit or explicit project is something other than aesthetics as such. In the case of Keats, for instance, it is the poetry of a “humanized” ethical regard; for Dickinson the project is the event of...

Notes

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pp. 245-302

Index

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pp. 303-312