By James E. von der Heydt
From pop culture to politics to vintage novels, quintessentially American texts take their thought from the belief of infinity. within the outstanding literary century inaugurated through Ralph Waldo Emerson, the lyric too appeared to stumble upon percentages as unlimited because the U.S. mind's eye. This increases the query: What occurs whilst boundlessness is greater than only a determine of speech? Exploring new horizons is something, yet truly taking a look at the horizon itself is anything altogether assorted. during this conscientiously crafted research, James von der Heydt shines a brand new gentle at 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 earlier and opened it as much as vastness; within the following century, a succession of extraordinary, rigorous poets took the philosophical demanding situations of such freedom all too heavily. dealing with the unmarked horizon, Emersonian poets capture—and are captured by—a stark, astringent model of human attractiveness. Their uncompromising visions of limitlessness reclaim infinity's right legacy—and supply American poetry its facet. Von der Heydt's booklet recovers the secret in their international.
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Additional resources for At the Brink of Infinity: Poetic Humility in Boundless American Space
Like the speaker of “The Chambered Nautilus,” the speaker of “Each and All” chooses the integral seashell as his point of access to nature’s boundless unity; Emerson’s poem, though, is about the absolute failure of Holmesean knowledge. ) The inspecting mind makes the shell a symbol, but by that very act negates the shell’s participation in the all: astonishingly, then, no part of nature partakes of the whole’s perfection. The episode begins promisingly enough, as Emerson’s speaker performs the deed of fetching the shell and bringing it inside that must have preceded Holmes’s naturalist inspection of the object.
But most, like Chaos — Stopless — Cool — Without a Chance, or Spar — Or even a Report of Land — To justify — Despair. (355) The word “Cool” at first seems designed to mediate “not Cold” and “not Fire” from the first stanza, but its most important effect is to return us to the body in natural space. After a last effort at unsituated meaning (“Chance”), the dominant metaphor of vastness in the American tradition asserts both oceanic feeling and metaphoricity itself. In its visibility it defeats the bodilessness of pure language.
Within a pragmatist’s horizon, every part should reflect the whole; but at the shoreline, where horizon perfectly matches the idea of horizon, the vastness dwarfs any particular clue to its nature that we might comprehend. This troubling incommensurability presents a radical threat to this nature poem in which we might hope to see the pragmatic Emerson hermeneutic in action. The title’s ambitious linking of part and whole (rendered as interdependence, as in the line “All are needed by each one”) might be expected here to animate American knowledge in methodical descriptions that interact dynamically with universal truths.
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