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Plerosis/Kenosis

Poetic Language and its Energies

Series:

Richard A. Nanian

Why do readers report being powerfully affected by great poetry? What happens to us when we read a poem? Literary criticism has struggled to answer these questions because it treats poems as material artifacts of one kind or another. But readers do not experience literary texts as lifeless and silent material artifacts. They hear voices in them and feel moved and altered by them. Plerosis/Kenosis offers a new way of reading poems by treating poems as dynamic – essentially as fields of energy – and by focusing on how poetry pushes language towards two contradictory goals: the desire to say more, to convey universal truths, and overwhelm the reader with intensity; and the desire to speak with perfect clarity and precision, to achieve the purity of mathematics or logic. The pursuit of both goals inevitably ends in failure, but poetry is most powerful and most affecting as it approaches these two extremes. Plerosis/Kenosis lays out a theory of poetic language and applies that theory to a wide range of beloved works by, among others, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot, and Stevens. The theory establishes a framework that allows readers of poetry everywhere to articulate what a poem does to them when they read it, and the specific readings are original and illuminating. Moreover, the style throughout is lucid and accessible. Scholars, graduate students, and sophisticated undergraduates alike will find their understanding of poetry not only increased but indeed transformed.

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Works Cited 279

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Works Cited Asselineau, Roger. “The European Roots of Leaves of Grass.” Walt Whitman: The Centennial Essays. Ed. Ed Folsom. Iowa City: U Iowa P, 1994. 51–60. Print. Baillie, John. An Essay on the Sublime. London: R. Dodsley (1747). Intro. Samuel Holt Monk. Los Angeles: Augustan Reprint Society, 1953. Print. Barthes, Roland. S/Z: An Essay. Translated by Richard Miller. New York: Hill, 1974. Print. The Bible. Authorized King James Version and Apocrypha. Ed. and intro. Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett. Oxford: World’s Classics–Oxford UP, 1997. Print. Blake, William. Blake’s Poetry and Designs: Authoritative Texts, Illuminations in Color and Monochrome, Related Prose, Criticism. Ed. Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant. New York: Norton, 1979. Print. . “Auguries of Innocence.” Johnson and Grant. 209–12. Print. . “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” Johnson and Grant. 81–102. Print. Bloom, Harold. The Visionary Company. Rev. ed. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1971. Print. . The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Harcourt, 1994. Print. Bowles, Paul. “The Circular Valley.” The Stories of Paul Bowles. New York: Ecco– HarperCollins, 2003. 153–61. Print. Browning, Robert. Robert Browning’s Poetry. Ed. James F. Loucks. New York: Norton, 1979. Print. . “Abt. Vogler.” Loucks. 243–46. Print. . “Porphyria’s Lover.” Loucks. 74–75. Print. Bruns, Gerald. Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language: A Critical and Historical Study. New Haven: Yale UP, 1974. Print. Budd, Malcolm. “Delight in the Natural World: Kant on the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature. Part III: The Sublime in Nature.” British Journal...

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