A Defense of Poetry: Reflections on the Occasion of Writing

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Stanford University Press, 1995 - Poetry - 255 pages
This text argues that literature can be defined, and that in its definition its unique value can be discovered. The author identifies literature ontologically as a sign of the preconceptual, as the ostensive moment that discloses neither the purpose nor the structure of existence but existence itself, revealed in its nonhuman register. The author situates his argument amid theoretical debates inspired by deconstruction, the New Historicism, and neo-pragmatism, showing that ostension can only be disclosed through the intricacies of history and structure yet is itself neither historical nor structural, distinguishes it from the epiphanic, from social or aesthetic indifference, and from the sublime, and identifies the value of literature understood anthropologically as a human gesture toward the non-humanity of existence.

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Contents

Introduction I
1
History Structure and the Ostensive
11
Literature as Insignificance
31
Ostension in Language
50
What Poems See in Pictures
70
Nonepiphany in Wordsworth
91
Criticism Actuality and To Autumn
108
Possession of the Sublime Repression of Insignificance
133
Wordsworth Byron and the Epitaph
159
The Common Sense of
181
The Ethics of Suspending Knowledge
201
Notes
215
Index
247

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