Listening to a strong critic gather up and reject a thought can disclose its appeal in a fresh way. In an aside that wants to relegate – but instead invites future work – a leading critic of modern poetry recently complained of deconstructive theory’s surreptitious embrace of ‘moral idealism,’ ‘since its newest versions are replete with the talk of “knowledge of the heart” and “the ethics of letting be.”’2 The epigraph above has that same inadvertent generativity for me. It comes from the Scottish reviewer Francis Jeffrey; and it attacks the exaggerative thinking of ‘our modern poets’ – our romantics – from the other, overactive, side of a shared topic of jussive command. No doubt beyond his own aim, Jeffrey suggests in this famous review that a common excess links the biblical ‘let there be light,’ the French order ‘let him die,’ and the deconstructive ‘letting be’ of a later theoretical moment that also comes across French.
KeywordsRomantic Literature Ordinary Language Philosophy Modern Poetry Royalist Theory Romantic Poetry
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