At the Brink of Infinity

At the Brink of Infinity : Poetic Humility in Boundless American Space

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From popular culture to politics to classic novels, quintessentially American texts take their inspiration from the idea of infinity. In the extraordinary literary century inaugurated by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the lyric too seemed to encounter possibilities as limitless as the U.S. imagination. This raises the question: What happens when boundlessness is more than just a figure of speech? Exploring new horizons is one thing, but actually looking at the horizon itself is something altogether different. In this carefully crafted analysis, James von der Heydt shines a new light on the lyric craft of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill and considers how their seascape-vision redefines poetry's purpose.Emerson famously freed U.S. literature from its past and opened it up to vastness; in the following century, a succession of brilliant, rigorous poets took the philosophical challenges of such freedom all too seriously. Facing the unmarked horizon, Emersonian poets capture - and are captured by - a stark, astringent version of human beauty. Their uncompromising visions of limitlessness reclaim infinity's proper legacy - and give American poetry its edge. Von der Heydt's book recovers the mystery of their more

Product details

  • Hardback | 264 pages
  • 154.94 x 233.68 x 22.86mm | 476.27g
  • University of Iowa Press
  • Iowa, United States
  • English
  • 1587296284
  • 9781587296284

Review quote

"At the Brink of Infinity opens fresh new horizons on four major American poets by asking what we mean when we use terms like 'major' and 'horizon' in thinking about poetry and the world. Artfully refracting questions of scale, scope, and ambition through the philosophical lens of Emerson's writings, James von der Heydt shows us how the topography of our world inscribes enduring figures for both eternity and finitude within the imagination. At the Brink of Infinity evokes sparkling constellations of meaning from the most diminutive of literary forms." - Srikanth Reddy, author, Facts for Visitors"show more

About James E. Von Der Heydt

James von der Heydt is an instructor in the Department of English at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New more