Epic Negation: The Dialectical Poetics of Late Modernism (Modernist Literature and Culture)

The historical past of the epic-ranging from the heroic narratives of cultural foundation present in Homer and Virgil to the tumultuous theological and political conflicts depicted through Dante or Milton-is approximately as previous as literature itself. however the epic can be made and remade through its current, tailored to the pressures and formal must haves of its specific cultural second. analyzing modernist poetry's epic flip within the years among the 2 international Wars, C.D. Blanton's formidable examine charts the inversion of what Ezra Pound referred to as "a poem together with background" right into a fractured and hollowed shape, a "negated epic" that struggles not just to recognize the far away prior but in addition to conceive its speedy present.

Compelled to check in the strength of a bigger old totality it can't without delay signify, the negated epic reorients the functionality of poetic language, buying and selling expression or signification for concrete yet frequently buried reference, remaking the poem as an software of dialectical cause within the procedure. Epic Negation turns first to T. S. Eliot, productively pairing The Waste Land with The Criterion, the literary overview it introduced in 1922, to argue that Eliot's magazine systematically realizes the editorial and demanding technique in which modernism's epochal poem sought to imagine its second entire, constructing a totalizing account of interwar tradition. Dividing the epic's severe functionality from its sort, The Criterion not basically comprises background otherwise, but additionally formulates an intricately dialectical account of the difficulty dealing with bourgeois society, shaped within the picture of a Marxism it opposes.

World struggle II's technique serves to arrange the second one 1/2 Blanton's research, as he lines the dislocated formal results of a serial epic long past underground. within the annoying elegies and pastorals of W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, lyric varieties cryptically disclose the making a choice on strength of unmentionable yet common occasions, dividing adventure opposed to cognizance, what may be acknowledged in a poem from what can't. And, ultimately, with H.D.'s Trilogy-written less than bombardment in a terse trade with Freud's recognized rewriting of biblical historical past in Moses and Monotheism--the poetic snapshot itself lapses, consigning epic to the silent ancient strength of the subconscious. Uniquely conceived and deftly accomplished, Epic Negation transforms our realizing of modernist poetics and the concept that of epic extra broadly.

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Even grammar has began to undergo logical negation, casting the poem into contradiction with the now varied challenge of poetry regularly: “a poem isn't really poetry. ” however it is simply that negation that Eliot’s poem finally seeks to verify instead of negate, ironically able to sacrifice itself to a conceptual abstraction:          But the summary perception of non-public event at its maximum depth changing into common, which we name “poetry,” can be affirmed in verse. (237–8) this can be the contradiction—between the incipient universality of “poetry” and the disappearing “poem” by which it intensifies into nothing—that occupies the rest of this booklet. And it really is this contradiction that justifies what may appear the book’s such a lot scandalous declare: that the historic common sense of past due modernism, glimpsed officially within the concomitant destruction and upkeep of epic as an idea, results in the negation of the poem as such, certainly leads to the reconceptualization of poetry as a negation. For Eliot, as we've seen, “poetry” had develop into an more and more vestigial time period over the interwar interval, because the formal good judgment already embedded within the Waste Land spread out in a cryptically totalizing account of bourgeois tradition in its totalitarian and (only it seems that) terminal part. That negation, remember that, doesn't restrict any specific poem from occurring; it fairly guarantees that this type of poem will fail to correspond to the totality of its scenario, successfully lapsing into an expressive insufficiency that's itself traditionally and aesthetically legible. certainly it's this failure that, in its flip, reclaims a class of “poetry” at huge, yet purely as an “abstract conception,” in influence the invention that personal adventure has relinquished its particularity and turn into a universally exchangeable truth. Pursued to its logical finish, Eliot’s unusual declare locates “poetry” now not within the textual content one reads, yet really in its dialectical liquidation, its deferral to and renovation below the concept shapes it. Poetic shape hence passes from the diversity of the 164     EPIC NEGATION good to that of the intelligible, displacing a textual content that makes an attempt to symbolize a totality thoroughly with one who seeks to visualize the of the concept of universality as such. during this feel, “poetry” turns into epic by way of definition, engaged with a historical past that ceases to avail itself as item or materia poetica and as an alternative involves render a constellation of forces past the purely sensuous. yet one other aspect of equivalent value is lodged in Eliot’s grammar, within the apposition during which “poetry” emerges because the identify of that higher flow through which an “abstract perception” turns into “universal. ” It indicates discoveries, made right away: that the common emerges in the course of the specific it negates; but in addition, and therefore, that the common may possibly hence be stated to have a background of its personal. If the 1st declare refurbishes a well-known flip of Hegelian good judgment, the second one is likely to be extra stunning, retaining the common as whatever traditionally made, describable and datable, one of those political truth in its personal correct.

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