Awful Parenthesis: Suspension and the Sublime in Romantic and Victorian Poetry
Published: May 2018© 2018
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 232 Pages
Dimensions: 6.10 x 9.10
232 Pages, 6.10 x 9.10 x 1.00 in
Whether the rapt trances of Romanticism or the corpse-like figures that confounded Victorian science and religion, nineteenth-century depictions of bodies in suspended animation are read as manifestations of broader concerns about the unknowable in Anne C. McCarthy’s Awful Parenthesis. Examining various aesthetics of suspension in the works of poets such as Coleridge, Shelley, Tennyson, and Christina Rossetti, McCarthy shares important insights into the nineteenth-century fascination with the sublime.
Attentive to differences between "Romantic" and "Victorian" articulations of suspension, Awful Parenthesis offers a critical alternative to assumptions about periodization. While investigating various conceptualizations of suspension, including the suspension of disbelief, suspended animation, trance, paralysis, pause, and dilatation, McCarthy provides historically-aware close readings of nineteenth-century poems in conversation with prose genres that include devotional works, philosophy, travel writing, and periodical fiction. Awful Parenthesis reveals the cultural obsession with the aesthetics of suspension as a response to an expanding, incoherent world in crisis, one where the audience is both active participant and passive onlooker.
Introduction - The Aesthetics of Suspension
Chapter 1 - Coleridge, Suspension, and the Sublime
Chapter 2 - Semblances of Truth in "Christabel" and Aids to Reflection
Chapter 3 - The Aesthetics of Contingency in Shelley’s "Universe of Things"
Chapter 4 - Tennyson and the Rhetoric of Suspended Animation
Chapter 5 - Christina Rossetti’s Poetic Faith
"By carefully analyzing suspension, with its ‘constellation of meanings and images that gradually – if only through insistent repetition – take on increasingly general force' in the Romantic and early Victorian eras’, McCarthy considerably contributes to the overwhelming body of secondary scholarship on Romantic and Victorian literature."Sasha Tamar Strelitz, New Books on English and American Literature of the Nineteenth-Century
"Awful Parenthesis is both ambitious and promising. It focuses and allows us to take a step forward in writing the history of an aesthetic that numerous studies see as pushing toward the future, something that reveals in the Romantics the seeds of the post-modern, perhaps the post-human."Deborah Weiss, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, European Romantic Review
"An outstanding book that hospitably accommodates the reader in its complexity and nuance even as it entertains with its elegant, shrewd, and frequently quick-witted exegeses of form."Emma Mason, University of Warwick, University of Toronto Quarterly: Letters in Canada 2018
"Awful Parenthesis presents a convincing case for re-theorizing the sublime by recognizing suspension as its condition of possibility."Kimberly Rodda, University of Toronto, University of Toronto Quarterly: Letters in Canada 2018
"Awful Parenthesis provides beautiful close readings of a range of poems, including an extended reading of Shelley’s Mont Blanc (1816). But this book’s most important contribution is not its treatment of particular poems or poets, but rather its moving […] consideration of the way life is lived in the face of contingency, and of the leap of faith such living requires."Casie LeGette, University of Georgia, Victorian Studies
"Awful Parenthesis is elegantly written, well-researched, thoroughly prepared, and up-to-date on existing scholarship."Christopher Stokes, Lecturer, Department of Humanities, University of Exeter
"Awful Parenthesis offers an important, interesting addition to the fields of Romantic and Victorian literature, and contributes to renewed interest in Victorian poetry and in poetic form. Tying together an intriguing mixture of highly canonical works and lesser-known texts, Awful Parenthesis will have a strong appeal to faculty and graduate students working on Romanticism, Victorian literature, and poetry more broadly."Monique Morgan, Associate Professor, Department of English, Indiana University Bloomington