chapter  1
8 Pages

The Subject Of The Text

The purpose of this work is to present a model for studying the history of lyric as a genre. My specific claim about the nature of lyric poetry is that what is now generally considered lyric-a short poem of personal revelation, confession or complaint, which projects the image of an individual and highly self-reflexive subjective consciousness (see among others Schelling 1913:1-3; Lukács 1973: 63-64; Frye 1971:24950; Culler 1975:164-70)—is only possible in a culture of writing. Indeed it is the lyric collection which spawns the lyric consciousness as we know it. For only the collection, with its inherent potential for

building up complex relational structures of reading and rereading, possesses the necessary flexibility in the temporal patterns of its reception to project the image of a self which is not merely a character in a presumed narrative, but rather the source of all possible narrative projections that would seek to account for a given set of texts. In this sense, the lyric collection would be the opposite of tragedy as Aristotle defines it, for in the lyric collection it is the projection of selfhood, , which makes the action, , possible, and not the other way around (Poetics 1450a 23-4). I shall also argue that this projection of a peculiarly interiorized and articulated consciousness, which defines the genre, is a historical phenomenon, that the precise nature of its structure will vary from period to period according to the ideological patterns on which it is based, and finally that there are certain periods when the projection of this consciousness is completely absent.