On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word
By Angela Leighton
What's shape? Why does shape subject? during this inventive and impressive learn, Angela Leighton assesses not just the legacy of Victorian aestheticism, and its richly inventive key-phrase, 'form', but in addition the very nature of the literary. She exhibits how writers, for 2 centuries and extra, have back to the belief of shape as whatever which incorporates the key of artwork itself. She tracks the advance of the observe from the Romantics to modern poets, and gives shut readings of, between others, Tennyson, Pater, Woolf, Yeats, Stevens, and Plath, to teach how shape has supplied the one most crucial approach of accounting for the pursuits of literary language itself. She investigates, for example, the outdated debate of shape and content material, of shape as track or sound-shape, because the ghostly dynamic and dynamics of a textual content, in addition to its lengthy organization with the aestheticist precept of being 'for nothing'. In a wide-ranging and artistic argument, she means that shape is the most important to the excitement of the literary textual content, and that that excitement is a part of what literary feedback itself must resolution and convey.
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Extra resources for On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word
Stella McNichol, intro. Hermione Lee (London: Penguin, 1992), a hundred and ten. All next quotations may be taken from this variation and brought up within the textual content. only a be aware: On Woolf 131 ‘But then I’m a type of those that wish attractiveness, if it’s just a stone, or a pot. ’¹⁰ this isn't Jinny, however the speaker of the penultimate fragment within the brief tale, ‘Portraits’. The pathos and preciosity are audible, however the element is identical: ‘a stone, or a pot’ may perhaps suggest treasure, attractiveness. The satirical tone, a bit like Eliot’s in ‘Portrait of a Lady’, sounds at ﬁrst like modernist mockery, an uneasy contempt for ladies who move conversing of Michelangelo. yet at the back of the satire there's a plea. Woolf ’s tale, itself a fraction damaged off from any context, speaker or historical past, retains rounding again to the notice ‘beauty’, in addition to to the identify which appears linked to it: ‘I by no means spoke to her. yet in a feeling, the real experience, I who love good looks continuously believe, I knew Vernon Lee. ’¹¹ figuring out Vernon Lee, that writer of innumerable works on aesthetics, is a reminiscence through organization, repeated during this tale with fretful insistence. Loving good looks ends up in realizing Vernon Lee, in a wish-fulﬁlling connection which is rarely constructed or resolved. it can be, even though, that that connection, which biographies of Woolf have tended to disregard, lurks somewhere else in Woolf ’s pleading, bafﬂed repetitions of that one note. attractiveness, she recognizes during this tale, doesn't pop out of an summary void, created through modernism; it comes out of nineteenth-century aestheticism’s lengthy, pretentious, rebellious background of looking fantastic thing about shape. And one of many voices linked to that seek is, after all, Vernon Lee’s. in the course of her lifestyles Woolf reviewed numerous of Lee’s books, even though they prompted her a few hassle. ‘I am sobbing with distress over Vernon Lee, who fairly turns all strong writing to vapour, together with her ﬂuency and insipidity’,¹² she laments in 1907. even if enraged via Lee, she still makes use of her as a yardstick for comparability: ‘My writing makes me tremble; it kind of feels so most likely that it'll be d—d undesirable … after the style of Vernon Lee. ’¹³ She is infuriated by means of Strachey’s compliment of Lee: he ‘jumps up and seizes withered virgins like Vernon Lee’. ¹⁴ yet her perspective in later existence softened. She was once intrigued, for example, via Roger Fry’s compliment for Lee’s ebook on song and Its Lovers,¹⁵ and while Ethel Smyth condemned Lee’s paciﬁst perspectives in 1933, Woolf rallied to her defence: ‘Why do you ¹⁰ Virginia Woolf, ‘Portraits’, within the entire Shorter Fiction, ed. Susan Dick (London: Hogarth Press, 1985), 236–40, 239. ¹¹ Ibid. 240. ¹² The Letters of Virginia Woolf (To Violet Dickinson, December 1907), i. 320. ¹³ Ibid. (To Violet Dickinson, 15? October 1907), i. 315. ¹⁴ Ibid. (To Vanessa Bell, 15 July 1918), ii. 261. ¹⁵ Ibid. (To Ethel Smyth, 22 December 1932), v. 137. 132 only a be aware: On Woolf imagine Vernon Lees perspectives at the warfare detestable? What may you assert to mine? ’¹⁶ Then, listening to of Lee’s demise in 1935, she admitted a feeling of overlooked chance: ‘I’m sorry outdated Vernon is lifeless.