John Schulz responds to Annmarie Drury
Annemarie Drury views Awful Parenthesis’s hermeneutic lens of suspension as opening up, rather than conforming to, our current critical sense of Victorian poetry. Given my own interest in the questions Awful Parenthesis may raise regarding what “long-nineteenth century” can mean, I find Drury’s question about the potential career for suspension in the twentieth century particularly generative. In her conclusion, McCarthy suggests that, “by the end of the Victorian era, the encounter with the essential discontinuity of the world no longer needs to be presented with the jolt of the sublime” (177). Gesturing to the rise of literary modernism’s experimental ethos out of a world whose discontinuity was viewed as an enduring crisis, she continues to conjecture that in the twentieth century suspension perhaps becomes something “routine and perpetual—something manageable, something given” (177). Thus, McCarthy hints that if suspension were to be traced into twentieth-century poetry we would have to learn to recognize it absent of the discourse of the “sublime.” Is the sublime what gives suspension its visibility in the nineteenth century? If so, rather than as part of a continuing tradition, do we need to think of suspension in different terms in the twentieth century? Modernist poetry’s reputation for repressing its Victorian influences for the sake of innovation—T.S. Eliot perhaps being the most prominent culprit—may complicate these questions and create new ones. Considering where Romantic and Victorian poetic engagements with suspension and the sublime end may also entail asking whether twentieth-century poets relegate these discourses to a subliminal position.