Romanticism and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics
Robert Kaufman, Stanford University
* For their responses
to earlier versions of this essay I am grateful to Bill Brown, Adam Casdin,
Norma Cole, Jonathan Culler, Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Kevin Lamb, Saree
Makdisi, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Lisa Steinman, Arthur Strum, Robert von Hallberg,
and Alex Woloch. I am also indebted to numerous former colleagues from
a different, sometimes overlapping world, including especially Robert
Remar, initially of the National Labor Relations Board and, later, counsel
to the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union, AFL-CIO; the
late Maxine Auerbach, initially of the National Labor Relations Board
and then counsel to numerous San Francisco Bay Area unions; Michael Eisenscher,
former Field Organizer for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers
of America; Mary Ann Massenburg, District 65, United Automobile Workers
of America, AFL-CIO; and David Borgen, Communication Workers of America,
AFL-CIO. A somewhat different version of this essay was written for (and
will appear in) Just Being Difficult? Academic Writing in the Public
Arena, eds. Jonathan Culler and Kevin Lamb (forthcoming from Stanford
University Press, 2003).
1 For a quick rehearsal
of the film’s background and the labor history it tells, see Jackson 180-193.
2 For a useful, essentially
orthodox Marxian recounting of this Thomas-and-the-Left history, see Paananen,
"Dylan Thomas As Social Writer: Toward a Caudwellian Reading."
3 For discussion see,
for example, Cascardi, Consequences of Enlightenment; Ferguson,
Solitude and the Sublime; Caygill, Art of Judgment; and
Kaufman, "Red Kant" and "Negatively Capable Dialectics."
4 See Adorno’s quite
Benjaminian "On Lyric Poetry and Society," 44, 43; "Rede
über Lyrik und Gesellschaft," 87, 85. For more on the history
and theory of Benjamin’s and Adorno’s approaches to lyric, see Kaufman,
"Aura, Still" and "Adorno's Social Lyric, and Literary
Criticism Today: Poetics, Aesthetics, Modernity."
5 Adorno here again
seeks to telescope Benjamin’s prodigious although largely uncompleted
writings on Baudelaire into a few pages.
6 For sustained treatment
of Frankfurt-School analyses of the Baudelairean counter-tradition in
modern lyric, and for Benjamin’s, Brecht’s, and Adorno’s surprising later
indications that lyric aura might have a renewed, progressive role to
play in contemporary poetry and theory (after lyric's apparent
supervention by mechanical-technical reproduction or reproducibility),
see Kaufman, "Aura, Still."
7 While Herbert Marcuse—and
the Benjamin of the mid-1930s—would be obvious instances, the case is
perhaps best made by considering the most ostensibly Mandarin of the Frankfurt
critics; in that light, see, for example, the May 5, 1969 interview with
Adorno that appeared in Der Spiegel under the title "Keine
Angst vor dem Elfenbeinturm," trans. Gerhard Richter [the literary
critic, not the painter] under the title "Who's Afraid of the Ivory
Tower? A Conversation with Theodor W. Adorno."
8 See, again, Kaufman,
"Aura, Still" (esp. 73-74, n.46). For a valuable consideration
of how the triangulated crises of aura, experience, and conceptuality
inform an always-implicit ethical theory in Adornian and Frankfurt thought,
see J.M. Bernstein, Adorno: Disenchantment and Ethics. See also
Walter Benjamin, "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire"
and "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire" in Benjamin, Illuminations:
Essays and Reflections; "Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire,"
and "Über einige Motive bei Baudelaire." See too Adorno,
Benjamin, Briefwechsel 1928-1940 (138 ff., 364 ff., and 388 ff.);
in English, The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940 (104 ff., 280
ff., and 298 ff.). Finally, see Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy
of History"; "Über den Begriff der Geschichte."
9 For a simultaneously
comprehensive and succinct meditation on these ideas about constellative
form in critical writing—and for an identification of Benjamin as the
greatest theorist and practitioner of such writing—see Adorno, "The
Essay as Form"; "Der Essay als Form."
10 For an extended
discussion, see Kaufman, "Aura, Still" (esp. 74-79).
11Barbara Guest and
Laurie Reid, Symbiosis (n.p.). Guest’s recent work also includes
the Adorno-invoking Rocks on a Platter: Notes on Literature and
If So, Tell Me; see also her Stripped Tales and Quill, Solitary,
APPARITION. These and other volumes of Guest’s poetry have been published
by smaller presses whose books may sometimes prove difficult to find.
I should therefore add that most of Guest's work—and that of other poets
often associated with experimental traditions—is available through the
(non-profit) Small Press Distribution, the leading such distributor in
the United States, at 1341 Seventh Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, (510)524-1668
or (800)869-7553, fax (510)524-0852, email@example.com, <http://www.spdbooks.org>.
12 For more specific
treatment of Guest’s relationship to the early and continuing reception
of Frankfurt School aesthetics in the United States, see Kaufman, "A
Future for Modernism: Barbara Guest’s Recent Poetry."
13 For some of Palmer’s
more recent work, see At Passages; The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems
1972-1995; The Promises of Glass; and Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988.
For an example of Palmer’s thoughts on the dialogues between Frankfurt
aesthetics and contemporary poetry, see his "Some Notes on Shelley,
Poetics, and the Present" (an essay that might best be read in relation
to his Sun and At Passages). For a very helpful discussion
of Palmer, see David Levi Strauss, "Aporia and Amnesia."