The lyric poem has often been understood as incompatible with other discourses, set apart by its compression, privacy, and identification with the individual self. Recently, the New Lyric Studies has rejected both the essentialism and the exceptionalism of the lyric as a genre or mode, seeking instead to expose the term lyric as an ideological reading practice that separates the text from its historical context. This essay examines some of the ways in which four new books on poetry by Siobhan Phillips, Joel Nickels, Christopher Nealon, and Oren Izenberg contribute to lyric theory by emphasizing what the poem holds in common with other discourses. I analyze the intersection between the lyric and four concepts borrowed from sociology, moral philosophy, political theory, and economics: the everyday, the multitude, capital, and person. Stressing the lyric’s compatibility rather than its distinction, these four critics reveal the universalism and collectivity out of which the lyric voice is constructed. I argue that the New Lyric Studies, widely construed to include these critics, brings poetry in line with the social poetics, world systems, and democratic inclusivity that figure prominently in current literary discourse, as well as with European theories of poetic subjectivity and community.
Walt Hunter; Lyric and Its Discontents. the minnesota review 1 November 2012; 2012 (79): 78–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-1708259
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