The Problem of Modernism and Critical Refusal: Bradley and Lamarque on Form/Content Unity

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In this article I revisit A. C. Bradley's account of form/content unity through the lens of both Peter Kivy's and Peter Lamarque's recent work on Bradley's lecture “Poetry for Poetry's Sake.” I argue that Lamarque gives a superior account of Bradley's argument. However, Lamarque claims that form/content unity should be understood as an imposition applied by the reader to poetry. Working with the counterexample of modernist poetry, I throw doubt on both this claim and some associated presuppositions found in Lamarque's account. Modernist poetry appears to intermittently fail to exhibit form/content unity; its unique value also appears bound up with this intermittent failure. However—against the moderates, like Kivy and Kelly Dean Jolley, who this counterexample may seem to support—I claim Lamarque is nonetheless correct that form/content unity is intrinsic in response to poetic value. I argue form/content unity should be seen as a demand, which poems (like modernist poetry) can intentionally frustrate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of aesthetics and art criticism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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