The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style

The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style

The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style

The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style


Jerome McGann's exciting new work represents the most significant intervention in Romantic studies since his The Romantic Ideology. It takes as its prime aim the reading of neglected poetry, principally by women, which qualifies as either poetry of sensibility or poetry of sentiment. It is certain to provoke discussion among anyone interested in the hundred years of poetry it considers. Writers discussed include: Ann Batten Cristall, Benardin, Coleridge, Erasmus Darwin, Thomas Gray, Francis Greville, Felicia Hemans, William Jones, Keats, Ossian, Mary Robinson, Schiller, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Ann Yearsley. This newest work by the preeminent critic of Romantic poetry will attract students and scholars of English literature and Women's Studies.


This book has been a long time coming. It documents an ignorance that has pervaded my life and that I don't imagine I shall ever escape. True, it was an acquired vice. But it flourished unresisted for too long. It gained thereby what my religious teachers used to call 'the temporal punishment due to sin'.

The academic form of that larger vice is my subject here. I first glimpsed that form almost thirty years ago when I read Susan Sontag Against Interpretation, where she called us to an 'erotics of reading'. For no fault of her own, Barthes--her acknowledged mentor--became a stumbling block in my case, since his work was mediated for me through venues that studiously avoided the crucial (affective) issues.

But the whole story would be tedious to recapitulate. We all have our own version of it in any case. Here I want simply to acknowledge those people who came to my assistance in more personal and immediate ways--who helped me to see that something was wrong and that something might be done.

Two people I want to single out. First is Randall McLeod (otherwise known under several witty signs) and his insistence that we learn to 'thingk'. Second is Patricia Spacks, whose passion for conversation might just possibly be greater than my own. Other friends of my enlightenment are many, but especially--so far as this book is concerned--Libby Fay, Nick Frankel, Michael Franklin, Derek Furr, Cheryl Giuliano, Terry Hoagwood, Marjorie Levinson, Marjorie Perloff, Lisa Samuels, Jeffrey Skoblow.

Finally I recall the person to whom this book is dedicated. The first poems I recollect hearing came from her lips. And one of those that ran in my mind for years began 'The boy stood on the burning deck.' It wasn't until I was far gone as a scholar that I learned the author of the poem was Felicia Hemans.

Many more years went by before I started to realize how many worlds were not well lost because I hadn't known that poet's name. The fault wasn't my mother's. She had the poem by . . .

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