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WatchwordsRomanticism and the Poetics of Attention$
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Lily Gurton-Wachter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804796958

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804796958.001.0001

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“That Something Living is Abroad”

“That Something Living is Abroad”

Missing the Point in ‘Beachy Head’

Chapter:
(p.110) Chapter 4 “That Something Living is Abroad”
Source:
Watchwords
Author(s):

Lily Gurton-Wachter

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804796958.003.0005

This chapter finds in Charlotte Smith’s final prospect poem, Beachy Head, a preoccupation with figures of keeping watch, including a geological watchfulness that undermines the wartime logic of natural enmity by suggesting that England and France were once one indistinguishable land mass. Smith’s poem borrows from scientific observation to cultivate an attention to the slight sounds that “just tell that something living is abroad.” Juxtaposing poetic, military, and scientific practices of observation, Beachy Head presents a landscape teeming with both sounds and listeners overlapping and intertwining, emptying alarms to create an archive of outdated modes of attention. Moving from horizon to the ground, from the prospect view to a more and more minute observation, Smith depicts a heightened and yet divided attention that she also demands of her reader, who must likewise move between the poetic text and its unfolding footnotes.

Keywords:   Charlotte Smith, landscape, prospect view, attention, scientific observation, militarization, enemy, history of geology, invasion, natural history

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