The Language of the Senses: Sensory-Perceptual Dynamics in Wordsworth, Coleridge, Thoreau, Whitman, and Dickinson

McGill-Queen's University Press

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In this stimulating and original analysis of some of the most important nineteenth-century English poets, Kerry McSweeney offers an alternative to non-referential and New Historicist critical methods.

McSweeney discusses the sensory acuity that informs the finest achievements of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Thoreau, Whitman, and Dickinson and which, when blunted by illness or age, contributes to an attenuation of their creative power. He supplies a "sensory profile" or sensory history for each author and through close readings shows how this profile affected their relationship to the external world and their powers of symbolic perception.

Using perspectives gleaned from the poets themselves and an understanding of the physiological ground of perception, McSweeney establishes a compelling theoretical basis for his approach. In clear and elegant prose, he studies the physical basis for aesthetic plenitude -- such as the sensory manifold of synaesthesia -- not only in the Romantic writers studied but also in two Victorian poets, Hopkins and Tennyson.


Year published: 1998
Pages: 208
Literary analysis
Imprint: McGill-Queen's University Press

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