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Title: The spirit of exemplarity : the role of example in lyric studies
Author: Scott, Christopher Mark Geddes
ISNI:       0000 0004 8501 1525
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Recent work in lyric studies has been dominated by two opposing camps: the historicism of the 'New Lyric Studies' and the attempt to defend a trans-historical category of lyric, most notably by Jonathan Culler. This thesis begins by claiming that these two camps have something in common: their practice of exemplification and their attitude towards individual example. Turning to Ludwig Wittgenstein and Stanley Cavell, I describe an alternative mode of exemplarity which, as Toril Moi attests, is now largely absent from the discipline of literary studies. The argument for a practice of exemplification in lyric criticism which attends to individual poems without an ultimate appeal to a general conception or the pursuit of historical and cultural knowledge risks being dismissed on the grounds that it is 'New Critical': politically and methodologically backward. My first chapter looks to trouble the 'New Critical' caricature which is so often invoked, especially in lyric studies, as a means of warding off ways of thinking and reading. As I examine the term 'New Criticism' with reference to a number of commentators, it becomes clear that it is unhelpfully diffuse, and that we need to re-visit many of the perceived critical flaws associated with it. My second chapter looks back to, and takes issue with, Jonathan Culler's 'Apostrophe', which it considers both as an important work in the move beyond 'New Criticism' and as an emblematic essay for theoretical approaches to lyric poetry. I continue to take Culler's work as an example of the theoretical approach to lyric in chapter three, as we investigate the development of 'Apostrophe' in the influential Theory of the Lyric, with particular attention to J. L. Austin and Jacques Derrida. My fourth chapter moves the thesis into a more positive mood, as it looks first at the way in which the argument of this thesis might be situated in relation to 'post-critical' work, before arguing for and describing a practice of wide critical attention to be paid as we consider individual poems and our encounters with them. Such a practice, I make clear throughout the thesis with reference to the recent work of Joseph North, is incompatible with the currently dominant paradigm of literary study, and we'll consider in an afterword potential changes to the discipline which might be necessary to enable work in this spirit of exemplarity to become standard, taking its place alongside scholarly work which aims to produce cultural and historical knowledge. My final chapter turns to individual lyric poems (a Greek epitaph, a medieval lyric, and a Wordsworth poem), seeking to enact the kind of critical work for which the thesis has argued, while continuing its project of expanding the range of examples typically considered in attempts to create models of lyric. As we read the poems, particular attention will be paid to how they interact with claims that lyric poems are events, not objects, and with discussions about repeatability and literary value.
Supervisor: Wilson, Ross Sponsor: Trinity College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Lyric studies ; New Criticism ; Empson ; Close reading ; Practical criticism ; I. A. Richards ; Joseph North ; Wittgenstein ; Stanley Cavell ; Medieval lyric ; Greek epitaph ; Veronica Forrest-Thomson ; Jonathan Culler ; Theory of the Lyric ; Theory ; Eric Griffiths ; Christopher Ricks