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The Lyric Theory Reader

, 680 pages

3 b&w illus.

December 2013



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The Lyric Theory Reader

A Critical Anthology


The Lyric Theory Reader collects major essays on the modern idea of lyric, made available here for the first time in one place. Representing a wide range of perspectives in Anglo-American literary criticism from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the collection as a whole documents the diversity and energy of ongoing critical conversations about lyric poetry.

Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins frame these conversations with a general introduction, bibliographies for further reading, and introductions to each of the anthology’s ten sections: genre theory, historical models of lyric, New Criticism, structuralist and post-structuralist reading, Frankfurt School approaches, phenomenologies of lyric reading, avant-garde anti-lyricism, lyric and sexual difference, and comparative lyric.

Designed for students, teachers, scholars, poets, and readers with a general interest in poetics, this book presents an intellectual history of the theory of lyric reading that has circulated both within and beyond the classroom, wherever poetry is taught, read, discussed, and debated today.

Virginia Jackson is the UCI Endowed Chair in Rhetoric in the Department of English at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of Dickinson's Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading. Yopie Prins is a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Michigan and author of Victorian Sappho.

"Through an astute selection of essays and a series of brilliant commentaries on them, Jackson and Prins show that although the way we conceive lyric is a recent invention that embodies a singularly modern and Western set of cultural ideas and values, we uphold lyric as the universal model of what poetry is and should be. Reading The Lyric Theory Reader is an exhilarating experience. In collecting what are arguably the most important modern statements about lyric, it opens up the diverse acuity of commentary on this most enduringly canonical of literary categories, and in that process encourages our most searching reflections on the historical existence of literary forms."

"A distinct account emerges of the life-history of the conception of the lyric as a genre—from the moment of its recognition as a genre that is said to have always been central, to the New Critical insistence that lyric is available because everyone can overhear it, to the increasing equation of lyric with poetry that occurs as the collapse of the genre system washes over both the novel and the lyric, leaving narrative and poetry in its wake. The Lyric Theory Reader is a worthy counterpart to Michael McKeon’s Theory of the Novel. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in the lyric, in poetry."

"Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins have done tremendous service to poetics in the nuanced and comprehensive work of constellation and accompanying commentary—providing a model of editorial lucidity, a library in a box, and a ceaselessly generative contradiction which is in the end perhaps itself the strongest argument for the lyric’s eccentric centrality."

"The thesis of The Lyric Theory Reader—that the very existence of the genre is more a critical extrapolation than anything solid and real—may seem to be itself a kind of critical conceit, but only because the argument serves the Reader exceptionally well as a cogent frame for taking stock of a diversity of approaches. Accordingly, the Reader would seem especially useful as a primer for up and coming scholars... Overall, the Reader should be considered essential in the formation of a thoughtful scholar of poetry and its criticism."

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