Choice of essays- Translated by Karolina Krasuska and Jedrzej Burszta
The Limits of Lyric: Western Theory and Postwar Polish Practice: Clare Cavanagh
The Limits of Lyric:Western Theory and Postwar Polish Practice
I have felt that the problem of my timeshould be defined as Poetry and History.Czesław Miłosz,“A Poet Between East and West” (1977)
1. The Lyric Under Siege
Poetry and history, poetry and society, poetry and politics: according to many recent Anglo-American critics, these phrases pair virtual antonyms. In the ideological criticism that has dominated the American academy in recent years, the lyric has come to serve as a convenient stand-in for “aesthetic isolationism” generally, that is, for art’s apparent “refusal of life actually conducted in actual society,” which in fact amounts to a “complicity with class-interested strategies of smoothing over historical conflict and contradictions with claims of natural and innate organization.” With the advent of Romanticism, Terry Eagleton explains, all art was ostensibly rescued “from the material practices, social relations and ideological meanings in which it is always caught up, and raised to the status of a solitary fetish.” And Romanticism’s favored form, the lyric, is invariably the worst offender in such socially irresponsible sleight-of-hand.1
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