Life: Organic Form and Romanticism

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Yale University Press, 2009 - Science - 302 pages
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What makes something alive?  Or, more to the point, what is life? The question is as old as the ages and has not been (and may never be) resolved. Life springs from life, and liveliness motivates matter to act the way it does. Yet vitality in its very unpredictability often appears as a threat. In this intellectually stimulating work, Denise Gigante looks at how major writers of the Romantic period strove to produce living forms of art on an analogy with biological form, often finding themselves face to face with a power known as monstrous.

 

The poets Christopher Smart, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats were all immersed in a culture obsessed with scientific ideas about vital power and its generation, and they broke with poetic convention in imagining new forms of "life.” In Life: Organic Form and Romanticism, Gigante offers a way to read ostensibly difficult poetry and reflects on the natural-philosophical idea of organic form and the discipline of literary studies.

 

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Life: organic form and Romanticism

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The question "What is life?" was a major obsession shared by the British romantic poets, writing from 1760 through 1830, and the scientists of that era. In this carefully researched study, Gigante ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Smarts Powers Jubilate Agno
49
Blakes Living Form Jerusalem
106
Color illustrations
114
Shelleys Vitalist Witch
155
Keatss Principle of Monstrosity Lamia
208
Notes
247
Index
287
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About the author (2009)

Denise Gigante is associate professor of English, Stanford University, author of Taste: A Literary History and editor of The Great Age of the English Essay: An Anthology, both published by Yale University Press.

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