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Richard Aldington, Some Imagist Poets: An Anthology (Boston and New York: Houghton

Mifflin, 1915), vi–vii.

7 Terry Eagleton argues that the Brontës created mythical resolutions to real social conflicts
through narrative closure
in Myths of Power (1975) (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Stephen Greenblatt’s
famous New Historicist
essay, “Invisible Bullets,” ends with the claim that “the form itself” of Shakespeare’s drama “
contains the radical
doubts it continually provokes,” in Political Shakespeare, eds. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan
Sinfield (Manchester and
New York: Manchester University Press, 1994), 45. Most recently, Marxistformalist Alex
Woloch brilliantly rethinks
the problem of character in the novel by arguing that nineteenth-century novels are
organized around enclosed
character-systems. The One v. the Many (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003). An
attention to forms as
constraints emerges in other schools of thought as well. Feminist poststructuralist Luce
Irigaray decries Western
thought for its long history of insisting on the constraints of form. This Sex Which Is Not
One, trans. Catherine Porter
(Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1985), 26.
8 Aristotle (Poetics) launches this tradition of thought in the West, with his attention to the
structuring of tragedy and
epic poetry. Al-Farahidi (786–718 BCE) is said to be the first writer to describe the patterns
of syllables in Arabic
verse. Sanskrit prosody begins with Pingala’s Chandaḥśāstra, dating to around the first
century BCE or CE, a time
when poets were shifting from Vedic to classical Sanskrit meter. A century of interesting
work in theories of
narrative form begins with Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale (1928) and moves
up through Gerard
Genette’s Figures (1967–70), Roland Barthes’s S/Z (1970), and Peter Brooks’s Reading for the
Plot (1984), and reaches
our own time in the works of Marie-Laure Ryan, Robyn Warhol, and David Herman, among
many others.
9 Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw was the first to theorize intersectionality in “Mapping the
Margins: Intersectionality,
Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (July
1991): 1241–99.
10 Wai-Chee Dimock traces an “epic spiral” that moves from Virgil and Dante to Henry
James in Through Other
Continents: American Literature across Deep Time (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
2006). Frances Ferguson
argues that forms are surprisingly stable across audiences. “Emma and the Impact of Form,”
Modern Language
Quarterly 61 (March 2000): 160. And Franco Moretti has been asking which forms travel
successfully across space,
and which do not, in Distant Reading (London and New York: Verso, 2013).
11 See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan
(London: Penguin, 1977), 137,
141, 156–57.
12 For Walter Benjamin, the idea of totality in art was “false” and seductive, and particularly
dangerous when the fascists
used it to create a totality out of the masses of people themselves. See “The Work of Art in
the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction,” in Film Theory and Criticism, eds. Gerald Mast and Marshall Cohen (New
York: Oxford University
Press, 1974), 869–70.
13 In one recent example among many, Matt Cohen writes that “a virulent racism structures
many of [Edwin Rice]
Burrough’s Tarzan novels,” in Brother Men (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press,
2005), 31.
14 Susan Wolfson, Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism (Stanford:
Stanford University Press,
1997); Heather Dubrow, “The Politics of Aesthetics: Recuperating Formalism and the Country
House Poem,” in
Renaissance Literature and Its Formal Engagements, ed. Mark David Rasmussen
(Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002): 67–88.
15 Most design theorists emphasize the relations between an object and its users; I am
more interested in the ways that
affordance allows us to think about both constraint and capability—that is, what actions or
thoughts are made
possible or impossible by the fact of a form. First used by perceptual psychologist J. J.
Gibson (“The Theory of
Affordances,” in R. E. Shaw and J. Bransford, eds., Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing [Hillsdale,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 1977]: 67–82), the term affordance became widely used thanks to Donald
Norman’s Design of Everyday
Things (New York: Doubleday, 1990).
16 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The House of Life (1881) (Portland, ME: Thomas B. Mosher, 1908),
17 Catherine D. Clark and Janeen M. Hill, “Reconciling the Tension between the Tenure and
Biological Clocks to Increase
the Recruitment and Retention of Women in Academia,” Forum on Public Policy (spring
2010): online at
18 Caitlin Rosenthal, “Fundamental Freedom or Fringe Benefit? Rice University and the
Administrative History of
Tenure, 1935–1963.” Journal of Academic Freedom 2 (2011): 1–24.
19 As Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy reduced the sentence of a man who had been
sentenced to forty years for
robbing a bank. He was moved by the story of the man’s poverty and the fact that he had
turned himself into the
authorities out of remorse. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Robert Kennedy and His Times