William Cullen Bryant’s abstraction of the British Romantic poetics he has been accused of merely borrowing had lasting effects on the lyricization of transatlantic poetics and on current ideas of Romantic lyric (specifically on versions of “the” Romantic lyric taught in American English departments) and on the naturalization of lyric reading. Bryant’s lyricized racism is and was inherent in the very Englishness of the forms he used to establish what it was and is to be a poet in America. By making American poetics in the image of British Romanticism, Bryant made American poetry dead and white at the very moment of its invention. Bryant’s poems were often about that predicament—that is, about whiteness and the difference settler colonialism made to British Romanticism, which is to say that if Cleanth Brooks was right that (what he thought of as) “Romantic poetry . . . foreshadows the characteristic structure” of modern poetry, then this is only true of modern American poetry if we consider the long shadow that Bryant (and nineteenth-century American poetics more generally) cast within that structure.


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pp. 521-551
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