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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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What is New Formalism?

What is New Formalism?

6 (p.140) What is New Formalism?1
Thinking Through Poetry

Marjorie Levinson

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers a critical review of the new formalist movement, especially in the first years of the twenty-first century. It explores new formalism’s embattled relationship to the new historicism, early and late, as well as to other forms of materialist critique. It distinguishes activist from normative new formalism. Activists want to restore to today’s reductive inscription of historical reading its original focus on form, traced most often to Marx, Freud, Adorno, and Jameson. Normative formalists campaign to bring back a sharp demarcation between history and art, discourse and literature, in which form is the prerogative of art. One strain of new formalism makes for a continuum with new historicism. The other, backlash, new formalism traces its position to Kant’s notion of form as the condition of aesthetic experience, understood as disinterested, autotelic, playful, pleasurable, consensus-generating, and thus both individually liberating and conducive to affective social cohesion.

Keywords:   new formalism, Immanuel Kant, the aesthetic, historicism, materialism, lyric poetry, literary theory, Romanticism

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