Against Coercion: Games Poets Play

by Eleanor Cook

Stanford University Press | April 1, 1998 | Hardcover

Not yet rated | write a review
"The inertia of language," declares Geoffrey Hill, is also "the coercive force of language." Good poets write against coercion, and Against Coercion is essentially about the power of words. Looking at our most highly organized form of words, poems, and how they work, it observes how that work speaks—always indirectly—to historical, ethical, and aesthetic questions, including matters of culture, identity, and feminism. It also demonstrates how to read poetry—how to go beyond an elementary (and usually boring) approach, thereby recovering the sheer pleasure of good poems and resisting the coercion of language, that power of words to do ill.

A study in advanced poetics, Against Coercion pays close attention to the intricate workings of poems, building larger claims on specific evidence and enjoying the praxis of master writers. The focus is on modern poets, from the early moderns (Stevens, Eliot) through to mid-century (Bishop) and recent (Merrill, Hill). Some chapters reach back to Milton, Wordsworth, and Aristophanes, however, while two even widen to encompass prose fiction.

The opening section centers on matters of empire, war, and nation. It includes chapters on Eliot, Keynes, and empire, and on Geoffrey Hill and Elizabeth Bishop (with reflections on language and war). The second section moves to questions of culture and the uses of memory, notably in allusion to earlier writers. It examines what our collective memory chooses to retain and to forget. The range of reference here extends from the King James Bible through Milton and Wordsworth to A. R. Ammons.

In the third section, poetry is seen at play, offering those happy occasions when work and play become one. Chapters treat the concept of play in Milton (including some feminist questions), the poetics of punning in Stevens and Bishop, riddles both large and small, in Stevens, a proposed typology of riddles, and a newly recovered Graeco-Latin pun in Alice in Wonderland. The final section moves to practical criticism and offers a new theory of ghost rhymes, a new suggestion of a formula in dream literature, a model for reading a poem, using John Hollander''s "Owl" as an illustration, and, taking Stevens as an example, a pedagogical argument that emphasizes the importance of logic and thought in poetry.

Format: Hardcover

Published: April 1, 1998

Publisher: Stanford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0804729379

ISBN - 13: 9780804729376

Found in: History and Criticism, Poetry History and Criticism

save 5%

  • Ships within 3-5 weeks

$55.50  ea

Online Price

$55.50 List Price

or, Used from $24.98

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Reviews

– More About This Product –

Against Coercion: Games Poets Play

by Eleanor Cook

Format: Hardcover

Published: April 1, 1998

Publisher: Stanford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0804729379

ISBN - 13: 9780804729376

From the Publisher

"The inertia of language," declares Geoffrey Hill, is also "the coercive force of language." Good poets write against coercion, and Against Coercion is essentially about the power of words. Looking at our most highly organized form of words, poems, and how they work, it observes how that work speaks—always indirectly—to historical, ethical, and aesthetic questions, including matters of culture, identity, and feminism. It also demonstrates how to read poetry—how to go beyond an elementary (and usually boring) approach, thereby recovering the sheer pleasure of good poems and resisting the coercion of language, that power of words to do ill.

A study in advanced poetics, Against Coercion pays close attention to the intricate workings of poems, building larger claims on specific evidence and enjoying the praxis of master writers. The focus is on modern poets, from the early moderns (Stevens, Eliot) through to mid-century (Bishop) and recent (Merrill, Hill). Some chapters reach back to Milton, Wordsworth, and Aristophanes, however, while two even widen to encompass prose fiction.

The opening section centers on matters of empire, war, and nation. It includes chapters on Eliot, Keynes, and empire, and on Geoffrey Hill and Elizabeth Bishop (with reflections on language and war). The second section moves to questions of culture and the uses of memory, notably in allusion to earlier writers. It examines what our collective memory chooses to retain and to forget. The range of reference here extends from the King James Bible through Milton and Wordsworth to A. R. Ammons.

In the third section, poetry is seen at play, offering those happy occasions when work and play become one. Chapters treat the concept of play in Milton (including some feminist questions), the poetics of punning in Stevens and Bishop, riddles both large and small, in Stevens, a proposed typology of riddles, and a newly recovered Graeco-Latin pun in Alice in Wonderland. The final section moves to practical criticism and offers a new theory of ghost rhymes, a new suggestion of a formula in dream literature, a model for reading a poem, using John Hollander''s "Owl" as an illustration, and, taking Stevens as an example, a pedagogical argument that emphasizes the importance of logic and thought in poetry.

From the Jacket

“This brilliantly written work is authentic literary criticism: sharp, perceptive, learned, original, individual, and life-enhancing. The scholarship is both astonishing and in itself a mode of wit; its handling is exquisite. The book establishes Cook as a first-rate critic.”—Harold Bloom, Yale University.

About the Author

Eleanor Cook is Professor of English at the University of Toronto. She is the author, most recently, of Poetry, Word-Play, and Word-War in Wallace Stevens.

Editorial Reviews

“This brilliantly written work is authentic literary criticism: sharp, perceptive, learned, original, individual, and life-enhancing. The scholarship is both astonishing and in itself a mode of wit; its handling is exquisite. The book establishes Cook as a first-rate critic.”—Harold Bloom, Yale University.
Item not added

This item is not available to order at this time.

See used copies from 00.00
  • My Gift List
  • My Wish List
  • Shopping Cart