In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 297 cated by one such discipline: political science. The quantification of thick, mutable opinion into big data and polling trends is our own blessed struc­ ture of political reason. But what happens when all the polls are wrong? Where is the accurate formula for deception—for the political lie that is told and the lie that one tells oneself? Who can quantify the partisan bile that rises and falls spasmodically? To live through the disruption of a ma­ chine of understanding is to live, as Michael shows us, through another phase of Romantic modernity. Jamison Kantor Ohio State University Theo Davis. Ornamental Aesthetics: The Poetry of Attending in Thoreau, Dickinson, and Whitman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. 264. $65. Somewhere between the material, the philosophical, and the formal, Theo Davis in her most recent work, Ornamental Aesthetics: The Poetry of At­ tending in Thoreau, Dickinson, and Whitman, constructs a masterful and nuanced argument for the need to return the ornamental to a set of three writers who, we thought, had rid themselves ofit long ago. Davis therefore presents the reader with a welcome challenge from page one: to insist on the importance of the ornamental in this group of writers is already to carve out a critical space in which Davis finds herself uniquely alone. And yet, one of the greatest strengths of Davis’s book is her ability to situate herselfboth within and apart from the more well-known approaches to her three authors, designating for her reader the precise location ofher own ar­ gument and contribution to the field. While Davis relies especially upon the work of Martin Heidegger, she also comes into extended meaningful contact with Sharon Cameron, Jane Bennett, and the traditions of (all types of) historicism and materialism, arguing for a new type of formal criticism that is indebted to, though separate from, most current scholarship. For Davis, a theory of ornamentation is centrally concerned with how the mind and objects relate. Though her argument is not exactly an objectoriented ontology, Davis does want to borrow from various strains of new materialism to allow that objects themselves have an affective quality that cannot be entirely contained within the mind—that, to reference Bennett’s book, there is a certain vibrancy to matter that exists regardless of whether there is a mind to make sense ofit or not. However, the mind, the individ­ ual, and experience remain key for Davis, and not only as the stone upon which we always must stumble (as it is for many new materialists). MainSiR , 56 (Summer 2017) 298 BOOK REVIEWS taining the importance of the mind and thinking, Davis argues that Thoreau, Dickinson, and Whitman all offer us access to a more fluid con­ ception of Heideggerian Being, undoubtedly made more fluid by her at­ tentiveness to the object. Ornament is that which, on the one hand, “adorns and draws attention to” that which is immediate perceptual expe­ rience, and, on the other, that which connects with a sense of totality, or, Davis argues, the Heideggerian Open (12). Most important is the move Davis makes to dissolve the divide between the mind and the object while simultaneously maintaining the solidity of each: “what we will see increas­ ingly is how fully thinking ornament entails abandoning the notion that thinking is an internal process always opposed to, and apart from, the world of things, objects, or others” (35). Thinking, therefore, always must take place in the world, and must always refer to objects that attract— ornaments—within that world. In perhaps the most theoretically grounded chapter of the book, Chap­ ter 2, “Dickinson’s Ornamental Form,” Davis contends that there is an openness to Dickinson’s ornamentation that leads us directly to Heideg­ ger’s doorstep, allowing us to peer into the Open. Much of Davis’s project in the Dickinson chapter is to perform the conceptual work needed to adopt Heidegger as her thinker of presence. Davis wants to highlight in Heidegger the importance of groundedness in thinking—that thinking cannot take place in a vacuum. If the three main figures of her book show us anything, it is that there is a necessary relation between...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 297-300
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.