Abstract

As a response to Paul Fry’s essay “The New Metacriticisms and the Fate of Interpretation,” this essay asks a few questions: (1) Isn’t “metacriticism” what the twentieth century meant by literary criticism? (2) Why is modern literary criticism so defensive when it comes to lyric poetry? (3) What happens when the historical situation of a lyric literalizes apostrophic address? The answer to the first of these questions is yes. The answer to the second question depends on the critic, but this essay points out that defenses of lyric began in the early nineteenth century, so modern lyric theory continues a long tradition. The white male supremacist foundation of those defenses informs definitions of lyric poetry as utterance overheard, as solitary self-address. Fry is right that historical poetics attempts to rock that two-hundred-year-old foundation. The answer to the third question is that many poets have also rocked that foundation over those two centuries. The essay ends by interpreting an apostrophic ode written and published by George Moses Horton in 1828. Horton’s enslavement in North Carolina literalized the figurative situation of address that has come to define lyric reading.

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