Annmarie Drury responds to A.K. Huseby

Reflecting on suspense as bodily experience, Amy Huseby asks, “At what point do negative forms of suspension transform, becoming ameliorative and cathartic?” – a question that directs our attention to pivot-points in emotional and physical experience, and to their representation. Perhaps a partial response in McCarthy’s terms would be that suspension occurs in a space where the negative and the ameliorative are not defined or discernible – that is to say, where a transition from negative to positive would not be perceived as such. More than this, however, Huseby’s engaging reflection returned me to McCarthy’s writing on Coleridge and to an emotional pivot that McCarthy highlights in “The Nightingale.” There, Coleridge uses “the lexicon of suspension,” McCarthy shows, to trace a shift in his young son, “to describe the change from restlessness to calm and the silent joy” inspired by seeing the moon (30). My connection is associative – this passage cannot really be made to answer the question Huseby poses – but Coleridge’s interest in the emotional pivot and McCarthy’s attention to that interest are, like Huseby’s question, thought-provoking. In “The Nightingale,” this change occurs in a subject too young to explain anything of it, suggesting the recondite aspect of such pivots.

Huseby’s focus on bodily experience made me think as well about the role of sound in McCarthy’s accounts of Coleridge and Shelley both. This is not a point that McCarthy takes up too directly, but in considering the nature of the sublime for Coleridge, she cites his remark that “there are Sounds more sublime than any Sight can be” (36), and in her discussions of Coleridge and Shelley both, soundscapes seem integral to suspension. All this is in a sense predicted by the passage from De Quincey where McCarthy’s definition of suspension originates, in which sound is central. I am interested in following sound’s role more carefully across Awful Parenthesis.

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