Figures of Time

Disjunctions in Modernist Poetry

By David Ben-Merre

Subjects: Poetry, Literary Criticism, Comparative Literature, Literary History
Series: SUNY series, Literature . . . in Theory
Hardcover : 9781438468334, 320 pages, February 2018
Paperback : 9781438468327, 320 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents

Preface:  On “Timeliness”
Introduction: Figuring Anachrony
Kurt Gödel and Other Liars: The Metaleptic Methods of Modernity

Part I. Figures of Opposition

1. Paradox
“Inherent Opposites, Of Essential Unity”: Wallace Stevens’s “Connoisseur of Chaos”

2. Revision
“The Brawling of a Sparrow in the Eaves”: Revision and the Romantic Imagination in W. B. Yeats
Part II. Figures of Recollection

3. Memory
Shellfish Readings: On H. D., Nachträglichkeit, and Anagrammatic Wanderings

4. Tradition
“Strange Spars of Knowledge and Dimmed Wares of Price”: Ezra Pound, “Portrait d’une Femme,” and the Literary Anthology
Part III. Figures of Self

5. Voice
We’re, Like, Talking on the Page: Sound, Simile, and the [Langston] Hues of African American Verse

6. Lyric Identity
“The Patient Is No Longer Here”: T. S. Eliot’s Late Lyric Moment

Works Cited

Focuses on how nuances of poetic form alter how we have come to understand cultural aspects of time.


Figures of Time proposes radically new ideas about the very poetic ground of culture. Presenting unique close readings of six modern poets—Wallace Stevens, W. B. Yeats, H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, and T. S. Eliot—David Ben-Merre brings recent theoretical questions about the rhetoric of modernism and poetic figuration into current discussions in critical theory. He argues that poetic spaces, often disjunctions of sound and sense, disrupt our culturally inherited notions of time, reimagining with an often irrational and anachronistic backward glance what we take to be historical chronologies, psychological perceptions of time, and collective scripts about causality.

David Ben-Merre is Associate Professor of English at Buffalo State College, State University of New York.