By James E. von der Heydt
From pop culture to politics to vintage novels, quintessentially American texts take their suggestion from the belief of infinity. within the striking literary century inaugurated via Ralph Waldo Emerson, the lyric too looked as if it would come across probabilities as unlimited because the U.S. mind's eye. This increases the query: What occurs while 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 earlier and opened it as much as vastness; within the following century, a succession of superb, rigorous poets took the philosophical demanding situations of such freedom all too heavily. dealing with the unmarked horizon, Emersonian poets seize - and are captured by means of - a stark, astringent model of human attractiveness. Their uncompromising visions of limitlessness reclaim infinity's right legacy - and provides American poetry its part. Von der Heydt's e-book recovers the secret in their global
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Additional resources for At the brink of infinity : poetic humility in boundless American space
42). That direction, of course, would be outward, and the impossible action called for is the stopless tracing of ever-larger realms of knowledge even after human footing is left behind. 182]). 6 In invoking the construction of affirmations, Emerson overlooks the limitation that he has just named: he forgets that outside of firm ground there is no place for building to begin. The oceans of the passage’s central sentence thus undermine its subsequent efforts to found a workable creed. The writer tries to ignore the irreconcilability of “firmness” and miasma (properties respectively of “a wall” and “interminable oceans”) and obscures the presence at hand of negative, oceanic space.
I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God. . In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. ” The final sentence of the paragraph draws its imaginative strength from the same oscillation: the word “in” seems at first to refer to the 24 | a n ev ery w h er e of si lv er location of the self (securely placed within the landscape), but it turns out to be just describing the location of the beauty the self discerns.
Again I saw, again I heard, The rolling river, the morning bird; — Beauty through my senses stole; I yielded myself to the perfect whole. Although they are not usually the reasons given, excellent reasons exist for the critical consensus that these concluding lines, in this poem, are unsatisfactory. The end of the poem cuts off speech just before the crucial moment, the transition from experience to knowledge with which Emerson’s speaker has been struggling. The shells fetched home profoundly failed to contain their shoreline context — and yet in these last lines the trees and birds, fetched into verse, are said to contain the landscape.
At the brink of infinity : poetic humility in boundless American space by James E. von der Heydt