Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Extravagant: Crossings of Modern Poetry and Modern Philosophy

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Extravagant: Crossings of Modern Poetry and Modern Philosophy

Article excerpt

The Extravagant: Crossings of Modern Poetry and Modern Philosophy, by Robert Baker. Notre Dame, July 2005. $65 cloth, $30 paper

The Extravagant is a fascinating and ambitious study of the interplay between philosophy and poetry in the modern period. Plato famously banished poets from his philosopher's ideal state. There followed a long tradition of tension between a philosopher's more rigorous and rational pursuit of truth and a poet's seemingly more intuitive, perhaps irrational utterance of deep truth. Since Kant's provisional answer to Hume's radical skepticism, however, there has been an important current in Western philosophy that sees in poetry (and, more broadly, the arts) the possibility of accessing truths that philosophy cannot, in any traditional, rigorous manner, articulate. Baker is interested in how poetries and modern philosophies "often read like a multidimensional meditation on various forces or events irreducible to conventional models of representation."

Baker's broad, fast-moving treatise examines these "crossings" between poetry and philosophy, beginning with the sublime in Kant, Wordsworth, and the postmodern philosopher Lyotard. The "extravagant" as a term is related to our culture's notion of the sublime: Baker speaks of the word's root meaning as a wandering beyond, which can be seen alternately as a surpassing of conventional boundaries and as a longing, in having so crossed, to return. …

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