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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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Just Looking

(p.179) Afterword

Lily Gurton-Wachter

Stanford University Press

The afterword turns from Keats’s attitude reading about war in Milton—saying “so it is”—to Simone Weil, who is preoccupied with a “decreative” model of attention as retreat and passivity, as not taking sides, and whose interpretation of The Iliad finds Homer remarkable in his ability also to represent war without taking sides. Weil’s 1939 essay, The Iliad, or the Poem of Force, suggests what a literary criticism of mere attention might look like, since Weil described her methodology as just looking, anticipating recent rejections of critique and suspicion in interpretation. For Weil, attention should be radically impersonal, as it is in Emily Dickinson’s 1863 “Four Trees,” a poem about the minimal action of noticing the overlooked background of a landscape, and the white space behind poems. Noticing something else during war is the slight but crucial shift invited by the Romantic poetics of attention, and its afterlife.

Keywords:   Simone Weil, Emily Dickinson, reading, attention, suspicion, poetics, criticism, Homer

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