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Thinking Through PoetryField Reports on Romantic Lyric$
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Marjorie Levinson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198810315

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198810315.001.0001

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Lyric—The Idea of this Invention

(p.254) 11 Conclusion
Thinking Through Poetry

Marjorie Levinson

Oxford University Press

This chapter bridges the gap between historicism and formalism through a new model for lyric. Different kinds of explanation suit different levels of analysis: validity in interpretation is tied to analytic level. Proposed here is a theory of the middle range—Franco Moretti’s genre, Jonathan Culler’s poetics. “Lyric” indicates the kind of poem recognized since the eighteenth century as such—hence, as the extreme form of the literary. A process resembling thinking happens in such densely coded, layered, and self-reflexive poems. The model suggested, however, is not self-reflexivity but self-assembly through a transhistorical recursive process that equally applies beyond conventionally defined agents, subjects, and mental states. As a byproduct of recursion, lyric subjectivity is homologous with processes in the physical and biological sciences, as conceptualized in dynamic systems theory. Such systems spontaneously select for their own boundaries and identity, their own relevant contexts: entity and environment are co-created.

Keywords:   lyric poetry, Romanticism, recursion, self-assembly, complexity theory, literary theory, Jonathan Culler, Franco Moretti, postclassical science

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