The Point Is to Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present

By Kantor, Jamison | The Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

The Point Is to Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present


Kantor, Jamison, The Virginia Quarterly Review


UVA FACULTY BOOKS The Point Is To Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present by Jerome McGann. Alabama, April 2007. $60 cloth, $32.95 paper

Jerome McGann had us all going when he proposed an Experiment in Criticism (1972) to investigate the late Victorian aesthetic poet A. C. Swinburne. The book was written in the form of an episodic dialogue, with McGann inhabiting the roles of various authoritative Swinburne critics across the first half of the twentieth century. But like the intensive historicism for which he is now well known, this so-called experimental form actually had a venerable, traditional precedent. McGann's resurrection of the Socratic dialogue, a form more widely used by philosophers, was a generic decision that did much to liberate the critical object from more recent scholarly writing's hermitic seal. We could nearly feel Brooks ousted by Bakhtin, the well-wrought writer laid under the interpretive fields. And, yes, each separate "critic" was still only McGann. But this was more importantly a reinvigorating critical game, and a masque wholly appropriate to a dramatic lyricist like Swinburne. …

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