The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style
Jerome McGann's exciting new work represents a major intervention in Eighteenth-century and Romantic studies. It takes as its prime aim the reading of neglected poetry, principally by women, which qualifies as either poetry of 'sensibility' or poetry of 'sentiment', terms which comprised the revolution in poetic style of the eighteenth century. Later reactions against these new technical and imaginative resources produced a state of cultural amnesia which The Poetics of Sensibility moves to correct. McGann's polemical study is an ambitious effort to begin reconstructing the order of our cultural inheritance. Its aesthetic focus sets it apart from virtually every other work of this kind. The book represents both of the major poetical movements of the past two centuries - romanticism and modernism - as cultural reactions against the procedures of sensibility and sentimentality. Romanticism is seen as an effort to curb or modify what were taken to be the more dangerous tendencies of the sentimental revolution. Modernism's anathema against sentimental styles, on the other hand, framed its argument on behalf of a set of (broadly classical and formalist) literary conventions. The Poetics of Sensibility examines the attitudes and procedures followed by various poets who were developing other, novel resources of poetical language made possible by the Lockean revolution. The range of discussion is extensive, but special emphasis is placed on the formative period of c.1730-1830.
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