Reflexive Figurality In The Poetry Of Blake, Wordsworth, Ashbery And A.R. Ammons

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Abstract

This study examines figures that modify the meta-language that defines, rationalizes and constrains them. Reflexive figures interrupt meaning-and incorporate that interruption as meaning. They index power (rather than figuring it), setting up the self-reference of tropological language as a central problem in the poetry of William Wordsworth and William Blake, inherited by John Ashbery and A.R. Ammons. For these poets, reflexive figures stage an encounter of figural imagination (or language) with power, conceived as external to language, or alternatively, as the creativity of language itself. Such figures situate the renewal, regeneration or renovation of language and imagination, and in late 20th century literary theory, they have become integral to notions of the linguistic turn, and the irrational signature of power produced when language folds onto itself. The study reads key passages of Blake's major and minor prophecies, along with his shorter poems, major sections of Wordsworth's Prelude and ! poetry spanning the careers of Ashbery and Ammons. I conclude by examining the abstract algebra of Wordsworth's friend, the seminal nineteenth century scientist William Rowan Hamilton, and its implications for contemporary notions of the "language of language." !

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2014-05-25
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reflexive; figurality; blake; wordsworth; ashbery; ammons
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Chase, Cynthia
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Culler, Jonathan Dwight
Gilbert, Roger Stephen
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English Language and Literature
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Ph. D., English Language and Literature
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Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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