The Blank-Verse Tradition from Milton to Stevens

The Blank-Verse Tradition from Milton to Stevens : Freethinking and the Crisis of Modernity

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Blank verse, unrhymed iambic pentameter, has been central to English poetry since the Renaissance. It is the basic vehicle of Shakespeare's plays and the form in which Milton chose to write Paradise Lost. Milton associated it with freedom, and the Romantics, connecting it in turn with freethinking, used it to explore change and confront modernity, sometimes in unexpectedly radical ways. Henry Weinfield's detailed readings of the masterpieces of English blank verse focus on Milton, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson and Stevens. He traces the philosophical and psychological struggles underlying these poets' choice of form and genre, and the extent to which their work is marked, consciously or not, by the influence of other poets. Unusually attuned to echoes between poems, this study sheds new light on how important poetic texts, most of which are central to the literary canon, unfold as works of art.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 113917892X
  • 9781139178921

Review quote

'The author proposes that blank verse as deployed and championed by Milton in Paradise Lost lends itself to not only freedom but to freethinking (by which he means independence of thought), as evidenced by selected poems by Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley Tennyson and Stevens. The book's strengths lie in much careful explication de texte and in the light shed on many inter-textual linkages.' Archie Burnett, Milton Quarterly 'The very real pleasures of this book are to be found in its resourceful and sensitive readings of very great poems.' Gordon Teskey, Modern Philology
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Table of contents

Introduction: blank-verse freethinking and its opponents; 1. 'In wand'ring mazes lost': skepticism and poetry in Milton's infernal conclave (Paradise Lost, Book 2); 2. 'With serpent error wand'ring found thir way': Milton's counterplot revisited (Paradise Lost, Book 7); 3. 'Man's mortality': Milton after Wordsworth (Paradise Lost, Book 10); 4. 'These beauteous forms': 'Tintern Abbey' and the post-Enlightenment religious crisis; 5. 'Knowledge not purchased by the loss of power': Wordsworth's meditation on books and death in Book 5 of The Prelude; 6. 'Who shall save?' Shelley's quest for the Absolute in A Defence of Poetry and Alastor; 7. Keats and the dilemmas of modernity in the Hyperion poems; 8. 'Of happy men that have the power to die': Tennyson's 'Tithonus'; 9. Stevens' anatomy; Bibliography.
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