By James E. von der Heydt
From pop culture to politics to vintage novels, quintessentially American texts take their idea from the belief of infinity. within the impressive literary century inaugurated through Ralph Waldo Emerson, the lyric too looked as if it would come upon probabilities 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 various. during this rigorously 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 catch - and are captured by way of - a stark, astringent model of human attractiveness. Their uncompromising visions of limitlessness reclaim infinity's right legacy - and provides American poetry its area. Von der Heydt's e-book recovers the secret in their global
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Additional info for At the brink of infinity : poetic humility in boundless American space
But the diameters, in making contact between a centering self and its circumference, also slice through both self and world and disrupt vastness with the imposition of a totalizing measurement. Grasped by the poet’s mind, the redemptive story of Revelation seizes up here into a single moment of sensation, a tableau rather than an event — static, cold, and implacably geometric. God’s lines of power are imposed on her withth e be achcom ber’s hor izon | 9 out recourse to the language of events. ” The poem, then, encounters its prospects in a moment that contains both stupefied longing and potent invocation.
He chose that impossibility because he knew, in his many honest moments, that the workable cognitive dialectic between part and whole (that is, “Each” and “All”) cannot accommodate the horizon’s transcendence of size itself. Pragmatism has no handle on the limitlessness of experience Emerson demands of his Romantic whole. Any token of nature may speak to the scholar, but Emerson’s “All,” the absolute, mentally pure distance of the sea, corresponds to nothing smaller, nothing that can be studied in camera.
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.