There is, of course, more than one question posed by the elusive notion of sensibility, especially if we consider it both in its contemporary deployment and in its rich conceptual history. The question I pose here is occasioned by the recent renewal of interest in aesthetic education and, more precisely, in efforts to renew criticism itself by returning to the psychological paradigm of sensibility-formation in the work of I. A. Richards. What might history have to do with such a paradigm and its present utility? And what might Romanticism in particular have to do with it? My answer is that Richards’s modernist project cannot be fully grasped without seeing its deep continuity with a Romantic transformation that posed the question of sensibility in the early Industrial Revolution as naming not only a general cultural crisis, though this was itself a Romantic innovation, but also a crisis that poetry alone could hope to address. Such a recognition has implications, I try to show, for how we approach what might be called the poetics of “achieved sensibility” both then and now.


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pp. 467-492
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