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HUMANITIES ] 27 Chaviva Hosek and Patricia Parker, editors. Lyric Poetry: Beyond New Criticism Cornell University Press. 375· $37·50, $12·95 paper In his poem 'La Torre: Charles Olson remarked that 'The end of something has a satisfaction. I When the structures go, light I comes through ...' This collectionofessays, which arose outofa symposium held in 1982 at the University of Toronto, is presented by its editors as offering (along with other pleasures) a measure of this kind ofsatisfaction. Despite repeated interments, despite a general rejection of its central dogmas of the autonomy and the organic unity of literary texts, the New Criticism has continued to haunt our classrooms, and not least those in which lyric poetry is being studied. One primary purpose of this book is to contest this unreflective pedagogical practice, and to do so 'on New Criticism's chosen ground, the analysis of poetic texts' (p 7). The challenge is a timely one, for as Patricia Parker suggests in her introductory essay, the comparative neglect of non-narrative genres by recent theorists (itself in parta reaction to New Criticism) provides an occasion both for meditation on the limitations oftheirwork and for amovementbeyond those limits. In many of these essays, whose authors include some of the best-known literary theorists now writing in North America, as well as some quite brilliant younger critics, both functions are triumphantly fulfilled. Yet as Parker and some of her fellow contributors are aware, their relation to the New Criticism is also one of continuity. The poem ofOlson's from which I have quoted begins by proclaiming that 'The tower is broken: but ends with a duplicitous rebuilding of what is ambiguously the same structure: '!twill take new stone ". to fmish off this rising tower.' Similarly, one may suspect that this'new new criticism: as Parker calls it, seeks less to complete the overthrow of its once-hegemonic namesake than (in a familiar deconstructive doublet) to supplant and supplement it- to 'finish it off: replicating its ideological functions in a mood of ironic dispersal rather than of unification. !t is one of the strengths of this book that criticisms of this kind are powerfully voiced within it. jonathan Arac, who in his concluding essay defines the new new criticism as 'a satire on the old, veering between parody and parricide: argues that it 'shares with the old New Criticism an emphasis thatis textual and technical, more concerned with method than with scholarship, and fundamentally unhistorical, especially in its confidence about the extensive applicability of its operative terms' (pp 347, 346). A field that had been opened up during the 1960s and 1970S is now, he suggests, being re-enclosed: and among the signs of that enclosure are a reduction of intertextuality to a purely literary system of exchanges between one poet or poem and another, and the historically invalid assumption (ofquestionable use even as a starting point for exercises in deconstruction) that a lyric mode of reading can be defmed in terms of pure subjectivity. These strictures apply forcibly to some of the writers assembled here: to Tilottama Rajan, whose emphasis on 'pure lyric' as a 'purely subjective form' (p 196) leads to what may seem a reductively clever reading of Shelley; and to Stanley Fish, whose assessment of the way Jonson's poems define the community of their readers is vitiated by a bizarre misreading of the line whlch serves as its basis: 'So with this Authors Readers will it thrive.' Ignoring the obvious possessive, Fish extracts instead the composite noun'Authors-Readers' - an unlikely rabbit to find in this particular hat, but one which fits neatly into hls own theory. Other essays here may, for a variety of different reasons, attract equally partial readings. David Bromwich's study of parody, pastiche, and allusion pays eloquent tribute to two Canadian poets, Jay Macpherson and Daryl Hine - but at the same time may remind one of how systematically this volume neglects recent poets like Williams, Ashbery, or AI Purdy, who write in a more demotic idiom and strayfurther from the traditional canon of English literature. An essay by the late Paul de Man (cobbled together from two longer pieces, both already in print) is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 127-129
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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