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Late Style and its DiscontentsEssays in art, literature, and music$
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Gordon McMullan and Sam Smiles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.001.0001

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The ‘Strangeness’ of George Oppen

The ‘Strangeness’ of George Oppen

Criticism, Modernity, and the Conditions of Late Style

Chapter:
(p.31) 2 The ‘Strangeness’ of George Oppen
Source:
Late Style and its Discontents
Author(s):

Gordon McMullan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.003.0003

This chapter is a reflection on the ways in which critics, from the romantics to the present, have negotiated the evidence of the output of writers, artists, and composers late in life in order to establish an understanding of ‘late style’ as a transcendent, transhistorical concept and a marker of genius, and on the complicity of creative artists in developing this understanding of late-life creativity. Late style is a trope, a critical construct, one that became a genre that creative artists could choose to adopt. The chapter turns from a general assessment of late style to a specific instance, the poetry of George Oppen, and to an account of Oppen that raises questions about the relationship of ‘lateness’ to modernity, to style, and to dementia. The chapter reads lateness as a redemptive critical shaping of the latter stage of an artistic career, one which conflates ‘late style’ and ‘old-age style’.

Keywords:   late style, old age, dementia, modernity, genius, creativity

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