Book Review: The New Poetics of Climate Change

Beci Carver, University of Exeter

Matthew Griffiths, The New Poetics of Climate Change: Modernist Aesthetics for a Warming World (London: Bloomsbury, 2017)

Imagine a version of William Wordsworth’s ‘The Solitary Reaper’ in which the air is ablaze, like an Australian sky, with bushfire light. The singer is stooped over to reap, but there is no crop: she is ghostwalking through an old routine. She sounds like a bird – a nightingale or cuckoo – but has never heard birdsong. She seems to be mourning something, but she could be mourning everything. The pastoral mode has always been characterised by pre-emptive elegy, as if the natural phenomena it described were better understood in their absence. But there is something viscerally different about a pastoral poem that spells out the environmental crisis it fears. Once, when Alice Oswald read out ‘Dunt: A Poem for a Dried-up River’, ‘someone had an asthma attack because she forgot to breathe’.

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Wallace Stevens’s ‘Photo-Poetics’: A Short Introduction to Modernism and Photosynthesis

Jasmine McCrory (Queen’s University Belfast)

In an 1899 journal entry, Wallace Stevens considered the value of ‘art for art’s sake’:

Art for art’s sake is both indiscreet and worthless. It opposes the common run of things by simply existing alone and for its own sake, because the common run of things are all parts of a system […]. Take therefore a few specific examples, such as the sun which is certainly beautiful and mighty enough to withstand the trivial adjective artistic. But its beauty is incidental […] the real use of [a star’s] beauty (which is not their excuse) is that it is a service, a food.[1] 

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Auden’s Poetics of the Closet: On This Island

Christopher J. Adamson, University of Southern California

‘To impose upon my passion the mask of discretion […] this is a strictly heroic value,’ Roland Barthes writes in A Lover’s Discourse. ‘Yet to hide a passion totally (or even to hide, more simply, its excess) is inconceivable: not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is in essence made to be seen: the hiding must be seen: I want you to know that I am hiding something from you […] I advance pointing to my mask: I set a mask upon my passion, but with a discreet (and wily) finger I designate this mask. Every passion, ultimately, has its spectator.’[1]

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