Signs of Feeling Everywhere: Lyric Poetics, Posthumanist Ecologies, and Ethics in the Anthropocene Restricted; Files Only

Chakraborty, Sumita (Spring 2018)

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“Signs of Feeling Everywhere” argues that transatlantic lyric poetry after 1850 can help us imagine ecological ethics in the Anthropocene. To make this argument, I foster an unlikely, yet vital, conversation between lyric poetics and posthumanism. As a theoretical orientation that critiques the idea that humans are bounded and coherent subjects governed by cognition, posthumanism is not often seen as compatible with lyric poetry, which has traditionally been read as a mode that is largely invested in humans. Ethical theories from a posthumanist perspective take this discord further, positioning lyric poems as irredeemably entangled with unethical systems of thought, such as anthropocentrism and hierarchies of beings. But I claim that these fraught entanglements give us an opportunity to conceptualize ecological relations—and ethics more broadly—from within the complicities that our position as human beings on Earth inevitably beget. Because it is inextricable from racialized, gendered, and colonial violence, the Anthropocene challenges us not simply to renounce these and other destructive systems of thought, but to find a method for contending with them, as well as with their associated affects and emotions—even when those systems and feelings are contradictory, harmful, or misguided. Lyric, I suggest, rises to the challenge, reminding us that, as contemporary American poet Louise Glück writes, “human beings leave / signs of feeling / everywhere.” Poets include Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Derek Walcott, Lucille Clifton, and Alice Oswald. The project ultimately contends that ecological ethics requires what lyric uniquely affords: a way for humans in modernity to reside within the classical ethical question, How is one to live?

Table of Contents

Preface . . . . . . . . 1




Chapter One  The Lives of Infamous Lyrics . . . . . . . .  24

Chapter Two  An Insecure Philosophy: The Giant in the Room . . . . . . . . 70




Chapter Three  Birds and Bees: Interspecies Lyric Eros and its Lapses . . . . . . . . 117

Chapter Four  Blue Spaces Like Gaps: Entanglement and Oceans . . . . . . . . 164

Chapter Five  The Intra-Active Universe: A Perverse Provocation . . . . . . . . 209


Works Cited . . . . . . . . 253

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