“Much of this book serves usefully as sensitivity training in the operation of metaphor, alerting us to the complex but rule-governed processes by which metaphysical poets engage us in reading… If Susan Sontag was right to suggest that the best a writer can hope for is to compose a few good sentences, Skulsky can rest well pleased with his account of the ‘metaphorists of the seventeenth century.’”
—William Shullenberger, Sarah Lawrence College, George Herbert Journal
“Clearly written and providing numerous examples from a wide range of lyrics, both profane and religious, this work succeeds admirably in its revitalization of traditional approaches to literature. Recommended.”
A searching contribution to the study of what gurative language is and how it works, this book is a guide to the sophisticated and powerful artistry of the seventeenth-century English poets who have come to be known by the misleading name of “Metaphysicals.” Harold Skulsky argues that “Metaphorists” is the more apt label. After exploring the dramatic and transactional theory of figurative language that these poets owe to the traditions they share, Skulsky gives close and carefully argued readings of their major poems. We watch metaphor being enacted rather than made in a high-stakes game of cue and response between writer and reader, a game sustained by a network of mutual understandings. In effect, Skulsky provides a reader-friendly manual of the skills we need to be players.
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