Levy's chosen model for how to read poems is not a literary critic but an art historian, T. J. Clark. Why? To some extent, the author is following a more generalized “visual turn” in literary studies. But Clark is also a skilled and devoted close reader who, like many in literature, modeled his critical practice in this respect on that of the New Critics. What's more, Levy claims, Clark associates close reading with the reading of poetry in particular. Poetry features only rarely in the history of modernism as retold by art historians, but as Clark writes, “Lyric cannot be expunged from modernism, only repressed.” The essay thus traces the repression and reemergence of lyric poetry in art-historical discourse from the work of Clark's precursor Clement Greenberg through Clark's later books, Farewell to an Idea and The Sight of Death. The discussion ends with an imagined dialogue between Clark and the poet and art critic Frank O'Hara—whom Clark cites prominently in Farewell—on the subject of what they call “vulgarity,” which both writers see as a signal quality of late-modern lyric.
Skip Nav Destination
Ellen Levy; “The Deep Ludicrousness of Lyric”: The Poet in T. J. Clark. Genre 1 March 2012; 45 (1): 9–27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1507020
Download citation file: