Skeptical Music by David Bromwich
Essays on Modern Poetry

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Synopsis

Skeptical Music collects the essays on poetry that have made David Bromwich one of the most widely admired critics now writing. Both readers familiar with modern poetry and newcomers to poets like Marianne Moore and Hart Crane will relish this collection for its elegance and power of discernment. Each essay stakes a definitive claim for the modernist style and its intent to capture an audience beyond the present moment.

The two general essays that frame Skeptical Music make Bromwich's aesthetic commitments clear. In "An Art without Importance," published here for the first time, Bromwich underscores the trust between author and reader that gives language its subtlety and depth, and makes the written word adequate to the reality that poetry captures. For Bromwich, understanding the work of a poet is like getting to know a person; it is a kind of reading that involves a mutual attraction of temperaments. The controversial final essay, "How Moral Is Taste?," explores the points at which aesthetic and moral considerations uneasily converge. In this timely essay, Bromwich argues that the wish for excitement that poetry draws upon is at once primitive and irreducible.

Skeptical Music most notably offers incomparable readings of individual poets. An essay on the complex relationship between Hart Crane and T. S. Eliot shows how the delicate shifts of tone and shading in their work register both affinity and resistance. A revealing look at W. H. Auden traces the process by which the voice of a generation changed from prophet to domestic ironist. Whether discussing heroism in the poetry of Wallace Stevens, considering self-reflection in the poems of Elizabeth Bishop, or exploring the battle between the self and its images in the work of John Ashbery, Skeptical Music will make readers think again about what poetry is, and even more important, why it still matters.
 

About David Bromwich

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David Bromwich is the Housum Professor of English at Yale University. He is the author of Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth's Poetry of the 1790s, published by the University of Chicago Press, and A Choice of Inheritance: Self and Community from Edmund Burke to Robert Frost.
 
Published March 30, 2001 by University Of Chicago Press. 288 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Topics in this latest collection by Bromwich (Disowned by Memory, 1998, etc.) range from studied close readings of great and lesser-known works by Stevens, Moore, Ashbery, and other well-known figures to provocative discussions of the aesthetics of modern poetry and the morality of taste.

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Publishers Weekly

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From the definitive, mid-'80s study Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic to last year's Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth's Poetry of the 1790s, Yale's Bromwich has carefully mapped the relations between poetry, criticism and public life in the Romantic period.

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Project MUSE

In his preface to this gathering of his essays and reviews on twentieth-century American and British poetry, David Bromwich regrets that it is "too late to suppress the evidence of a critic educating himself in public" (p.

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Project MUSE

One notes Bromwich's praise of Theodor Adorno's Aesthetic Theory—"the one great book of its kind that belongs to modernism"—and his somewhat constrained construction, in a discussion of Geoffrey Hill, of Adorno's proscription of poetry after Auschwitz as "the simplification of the human image in ...

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Project MUSE

In his preface to this gathering of his essays and reviews on twentieth-century American and British poetry, David Bromwich regrets that it is "too late to suppress the evidence of a critic educating himself in public" (p.

| Read Full Review of Skeptical Music: Essays on Mo...

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