By James E. von der Heydt
From pop culture to politics to vintage novels, quintessentially American texts take their suggestion from the assumption of infinity. within the remarkable literary century inaugurated by means of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the lyric too looked as if it would stumble upon percentages as unlimited because the U.S. mind's eye. This increases the query: What occurs whilst boundlessness is greater than only a determine of speech? Exploring new horizons is something, yet really taking a look at the horizon itself is whatever altogether diverse. during this conscientiously crafted research, James von der Heydt shines a brand new gentle at the lyric craft of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill and considers how their seascape-vision redefines poetry's purpose.Emerson famously freed U.S. literature from its previous and opened it as much as vastness; within the following century, a succession of amazing, rigorous poets took the philosophical demanding situations of such freedom all too heavily. dealing with the unmarked horizon, Emersonian poets capture—and are captured by—a stark, astringent model of human attractiveness. Their uncompromising visions of limitlessness reclaim infinity's right legacy—and provide American poetry its facet. Von der Heydt's booklet recovers the secret in their international.
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Additional resources for At the Brink of Infinity: Poetic Humility in Boundless American Space
14 In the mainstream tradition of addressing Emerson’s cognitive concerns, sociable poets like Whitman, pragmatic poets like Stevens, and novelists of many stripes used this Emersonian mechanism. Actuated by the flexibility of linguistic objects, such dynamic relation between part and whole is (the story goes) our most important cognitive inheritance from Emerson. The student’s question about Emerson’s prose, though, is how this mutual work of mind and world functions in actual cognitive deeds, in a landscape.
Her imagination, knowing impossibility and facing it without the retrenching recalibrations to which Emerson sometimes succumbs, brings us beyond the limits of Emerson’s essayistic capacity. Her responses to ocean, though still philosophical, theological, and experiential, are synchronic answers partaking of a simultaneity that cannot be evoked even by Emerson’s most atomistic and paradoxical sentences (such as the bifurcated formula “I am nothing; I see all”). In Dickinson’s most thorough poem of landscape and cosmology, the first two stanzas outline the Emersonian problems of featureless landscape at the shoreline, with a similar interest in the possibilities of the West.
5). Since Emerson’s notion of experience requires an infinite “All,” poetic representations in his tradition must face in some way the problem of incommensurability. Other poets often answer the challenge of Emerson’s vaunted infinitude with lyric performances more rigorous — both more honest and more inflexible — than he himself could muster in verse. Their compact writings, in a way, pay homage to the struggle he sustained over thousands of pages of prose — the struggle to keep faith consistently with an impossible idea of what knowledge is.