Taking Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and Gerard Manley Hopkins as its primary subjects, Surface Tension reveals how these later Victorian poets repeatedly imagine the aesthetic moment—charged, variegated, intensely focused—as capable of birthing a new, and newly redemptive, culture. Turning to contemporary experimental poets and theorists of poetry, such as Andrew Joron, Lisa Robertson, Christopher Nealon, and Joan Retallack, it goes on to reveal how our own poetry’s fascination with complex surfaces and imagined social transformation has deep and under-recognized ties to Victorian concepts. Surface Tension offers new insights into the debt we owe to the most radical of the Victorians while yielding new understandings of how late Victorian poetry, even when least explicitly political, engages, and often re-envisions, the period’s pressing anxieties about social progress, decadence, and revolution.
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