The Lyric Poem and Aestheticism: Forms of Modernity (2016)
This book analyses the remaking of lyric poetry in Victorian modernity, challenging and transforming existing narratives of the modern formation of the ‘lyric’ genre through engagement with a body of work that larger-scale genre histories often elide. As cultural and philosophical shifts were challenging the fundamental generic identity of ‘lyric’, aestheticist poets seemed to turn insistently to forms from the past. Yet might those antique forms be understood in relation to the pressures of modernity? How might they have been used to reimagine lyric’s presence in the modern world? This book argues that aestheticist poetry (c. 1860 to 1914) responds profoundly to the crisis of lyric’s relevance to a rapidly modernizing age, not in spite of these forms but through them. Setting its focal poetry within broader conceptual frames, and featuring innovative analysis of both recently rediscovered and canonical works, this study asks us to reimagine the relationship between poetry and modernity. The book provides three fresh frames through which to do this, and includes case studies featuring A. C. Swinburne, D. G. Rossetti, Alice Meynell, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Symons, Ezra Pound, and a host of other Decadent and aestheticist voices.