Awful Parenthesis: Suspension and the Sublime in Romantic and Victorian Poetry

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Whether the rapt trances of Romanticism or the corpse-like figures that confounded Victorian science and religion, nineteenth-century depictions of bodies in suspended animation are read as manifestations of broader concerns about the unknowable in Anne C. McCarthy's Awful Parenthesis. Examining various aesthetics of suspension in the works of poets such as Coleridge, Shelley, Tennyson, and Christina Rossetti, McCarthy shares important insights into the nineteenth-century fascination with the sublime.

Attentive to differences between "Romantic" and "Victorian" articulations of suspension, Awful Parenthesis offers a critical alternative to assumptions about periodization. While investigating various conceptualizations of suspension, including the suspension of disbelief, suspended animation, trance, paralysis, pause, and dilatation, McCarthy provides historically-aware close readings of nineteenth-century poems in conversation with prose genres that include devotional works, philosophy, travel writing, and periodical fiction. Awful Parenthesis reveals the cultural obsession with the aesthetics of suspension as a response to an expanding, incoherent world in crisis, one where the audience is both active participant and passive onlooker.

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University of Toronto Press
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