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Palgrave Macmillan

The Defective Art of Poetry

Sappho to Yeats

ISBN 9781137381873
Publication Date March 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Treating the work of Sappho, Goethe, Blake, Hölderlin, Verlaine, George, Mörike, and Yeats in detail, Benjamin Bennett makes the provocative argument that the nature of lyric poetry in the West has an element of defectiveness. The book sets out to prove that using the idea of perfection, which is applied routinely as a criterion of excellence in lyric poems, is fundamentally misguided. Once poetry in the Western tradition is established as fundamentally imperfect, Bennett reveals it to be as deeply exposed to problems in the social and political environment as any other form of literature.

Benjamin Bennett is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Virginia, USA. His recent books include All Theater Is Revolutionary Theater (2005), The Dark Side of Literacy: Literature and Learning Not to Read (2008), and Aesthetics as Secular Millennialism: Its Trail from Baumgarten and Kant to Walt Disney and Hitler (2013). He has been the recipient of the MLA's James Russell Lowell prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an ACLS Fellowship.

1. Sappho and the Wordsworth Problem
2. The Poem as Hieroglyph: Goethe's 'Über allen Gipfeln'
3. The Voices of Experience in Blake
4. Meter and Metaphysics: Hölderlin's 'Hyperions Schicksalslied'
5. A Song to Worry about: Verlaine's 'Chanson d'automne'
6. Stefan George and the Construction of a Poetic Idiom
7. Criticism as Wager: The Politics of the Mörike-Debate and Its Object
8. The Things on Yeats's Desk


"Bennett's original and erudite readings of poems by eight great poets are a continuing source of intellectual elation. With rare critical intensity, Bennett brings to light the nuances of masterpieces written in five languages even en route to theorizing their imperfection." - Stanley Corngold , Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature, Princeton University, USA
'The Defective Art of Poetry is a relentlessly profound meditation on what makes a poem a poem and why it matters. In beautifully straightforward prose, Benjamin Bennett draws the reader into intense reflection on how poems work, on the philosophical articulations of poetry, and on his own stunning readings. With this, his tenth book, Bennett once again shows why he is among the most gifted, original, and interesting literary scholars of the last half-century.' - Peter J. Burgard, Harvard University
"Bennett brings his unique combination of broad learning, rigid logic, and inventive reading to eight of the most famous lyric poems in European literature from Sappho to Yeats. His bold readings offer surprising perspectives on the individual texts and a compelling theory of the tasks performed by lyric poetry, by poetic voice, by meter, and above all by readers of poetry." - Jane K. Brown, Joff Hanauer Distinguished Professor for Western Civilization, University of Washington, USA
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