John Schulz responds to A.K. Huseby

In her reflection, Amy Huseby observes the capaciousness of McCarthy’s core concept of suspension in Awful Parenthesis and points to a few issues that such an open sense of suspension creates. The “affordances” of the discourse in the nineteenth century allow for us to reconsider, as I note in my reflection, just what the sublime is and can be in the Romantic and Victorian periods. Huseby, however, emphasizes how privileging the multiple possibilities for the discourse of suspension in nineteenth-century poetry may simultaneously elide the “negative affects of pauses and suspensions.” This is a particularly pressing concern when it comes to embodied modes of suspension. As she rightly notes, fainting can be terrifying—it can feel like an “obliteration of self, an absence of being.” Cognitively, deferral can be both an anxious and productive experience. This leads Huseby to a nuanced rumination on the dualistic charge of “awful” in McCarthy’s title, Awful Parenthesis; ultimately, “at what point do negative forms of suspension transform, becoming ameliorative and cathartic?” This last question forms from Huseby’s attention to Tennyson’s In Memoriam, in which “poetry’s deferral and purposiveness” enable Tennyson to manage his grief over the loss of his beloved friend Arthur Hallam.

I am grateful for Huseby’s example of In Memoriam, because it seems to exemplify the way in which questions of genre may be crucial to refining the discourse of suspension that Awful Parenthesis leaves so open. In Memoriam’s genre of elegy indeed depends on suspension for its larger investments in the mourning subject’s achievement of consolation—even in Sigmund Freud’s nuancing of the genre with his notion of melancholia, suspension remains integral. In other words, the positive affects of suspensions in In Memoriam are in some ways orienting themselves around Tennyson’s understanding of elegy as a genre. Taking Tennyson’s poem as an example, I wonder, on a much broader level, if genre may prove useful to sifting through nineteenth-century poetry’s pre-occupation with suspension. Could more attention to genre and suspension lead to a better appreciation of both positive and negative affects of suspensions that Huseby wants to bring into clearer focus?

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