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Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative

Schlegel, Byron, Joyce, Blanchot

Christopher A. Strathman

Publication Year: 2006

Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative locates Byron (and, to a lesser extent, Joyce) within a genealogy of romantic poetry understood not so much as imaginative self-expression or ideological case study but rather as what the German romantics call “romantische poesie”—an experimental form of poetry loosely based on the fragmentary flexibility and acute critical self-consciousness of Socratic dialogue. The book is therefore less an attempt to present yet another theory of romanticism than it is an effort to recover a more precise sense of the relationship between Byron’s fragmentary or “workless” poetic and romantic poetry generally, and to articulate connections between romantic poetry and modern literature and literary theory. The book also argues that the “exigency” or “imperative” of the fragmentary works of Schlegel, Byron, Joyce, and Blanchot is not so much the expression of a style as it is an acknowledgment of what remains unthought in thinking.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii

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p. xi

It is a pleasure to acknowledge those who have read parts, or the whole, of this book over the years. I am especially grateful to Jerry Bruns, Greg Kucich, Al Neiman, Steve Watson, Ewa Ziarek, and Krzysztof Ziarek, who guided this project in its earliest stages at Notre Dame. Andy Auge, Chris Fox, Steve Fredman, Aaron Halstead, Dan Hoolsema, John Matthias, and Jay Walton offered encouragement, support, and...

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1. Setting Out: Toward Irony, the Fragment, and the Fragmentary Work

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pp. 1-27

The purpose of this book is to inquire into a conception of poetry that emerges with special clarity and force during the second half of the eighteenth century. This conception comes into particularly clear view in the 1790s in both German literary theory and English literary practice, although such a distinction between theory and practice is problematic as romantic theory is very much informed by early...

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2. Rethinking Romantic Poetry: Schlegel, the Genre of Dialogue, and the Poetics of the Fragment

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pp. 28-56

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy open The Literary Absolute with an important observation concerning a watershed moment in the history of Western culture: “romanticism implies something entirely new, the production of something entirely new. The romantics never really succeed in naming this something: they speak of poetry, of the work, of the novel, or . . . of romanticism. In the end,...

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3. Nothing so Difficult as a Beginning: Byron’s Pilgrimage to the Origin of the Work of Art and the Inspiration of Exile

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pp. 57-104

In 1834, a decade after Byron’s death at Missolonghi in Greece, writer and civil servant Henry Taylor offered his assessment of the poet: “Had [Byron] united a philosophical intellect to his peculiarly poetical temperament, he would probably have been the greatest poet of his age.”¹ For much of the twentieth-century, critics have agreed, dismissing Byron’s obsession with the ironic negativity of poetic experience as the...

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4. Narrative and Its Discontents; or,The Novel as Fragmentary Work: Joyce at the Limits of Romantic Poetry

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pp. 105-150

Of all the works in the modernist literary canon, Joyce’s Ulysses best embodies the fragmentary work Schlegel calls romantische Poesie. However, such an observation immediately leads one away from one of the most long-standing and deeply entrenched assumptions about Joyce’s mature works: that the narrative structure of Ulysses—and to a lesser extent, Finnegans Wake—is based upon the foundation of epic poetry,...

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5. From the Fragmentary Work to the Fragmentary Imperative: Blanchot and the Quest for Passage to the Outside

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pp. 151-175

If the writings of Byron and Joyce are the apotheosis of romantic poetry’s fragmentary work, Blanchot articulates a further distinction between the fragmentary work and the fragmentary imperative.¹ In an essay on the German romantics, Blanchot registers his dissatisfaction with Schlegel’s tendency to pull up short when confronted with the most exacting demands of writing. In Schlegel’s case, says Blanchot,...


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pp. 177-200


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pp. 201-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780791483244
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791464571
Print-ISBN-10: 0791464571

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 63148948
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative

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Subject Headings

  • European poetry -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • European poetry -- 18th century -- History and criticism.
  • Romanticism -- Europe.
  • Blanchot, Maurice.
  • Schlegel, Friedrich von, 1772-1829 -- Knowledge -- Literature.
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