George Oppen’s Poetics of the Commonplace offers the first survey of the critical consensus which has now built up around the poetry of George Oppen, after over two decades of substantial interest in his work. It proposes a comprehensive perspective on Oppen and the criticism devoted to Oppen, from the Objectivist strain in American poetry to the thinkers, such as Heidegger, Levinas, Marx and Adorno, which critics have brought to bear on Oppen’s poetry, to pave the way for the consideration and exemplification of a new methodology which sheds a critical light on the ideas and practices in contemporary poetics, through well-researched close readings.
Chapter Eight: Unethical Criticism
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Alongside philosophical readings, which use Oppen’s poetry as a pretext for ontological extrapolations, there has been another sustained critical effort conducted chiefly through philosophical means, which can be described as an effort to moralize poetics. Joan Retallack’s The Poethical Wager is a highly representative example, and provides a clear picture, of the justification of literature as a noble, ethical pursuit. She writes:
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