Lives with Line-Breaks
Max Cavitch

It can be difficult to talk about nineteenth-century poetry in ways not steeped in 1) notions of subjectivity as atomistic, interiorized, reflexive, and distinct from (though able to “absorb”) something called “the world” and 2) presumptions of the universality of lyric subjectivity (what Philippe Lejeune calls “the pret-à-porter of emotion”). The protracted critical episode of Romantic lyricism is not yet finished, even though so many of us have tried to finish with it—for example, those of us who work in the newly renovated field of historical poetics: a loose confederacy of hermeneutic and relativist endeavors to understand what nineteenth-century poets and readers themselves made of poetry and what poetry made of them, including poems like the one Walt Whitman called “Song of Myself.”

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