In Theory of the Lyric Jonathan Culler makes powerful arguments for analogies between lyric and song, especially with regard to each medium’s commitment to producing pleasure and separating the speaking voice from individual psychology. But his case runs the risk of avoiding or oversimplifying lyric poems that resist these analogies. These poems call for interpretive acts that fully engage the work of syntax and structure in establishing distinctive modes of experience. Here Shakespeare’s sonnets demonstrate the roles syntax and structure can play, especially in cultivating complex acts of self-consciousness for which Hegel provides our best critical lens. With this focus, some important roles played by metaphysical conceits also become clear. The conceit forces acts of intense reflection. In the poetry, quintessentially in Donne’s “The Extasie,” there emerges a drama of the agents carrying out distinctive acts of self-interpretation: the fullness of love depends on hearing themselves speak and trying to imagine the objective difference that hearing is making in their behavior toward the other lover.

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