Review of Networked Language: Culture and History in Australian Poetry, by Philip Mead
Philip Mead’s important book offers a thoughtful introduction and six extended essays concerning the embeddedness of Australian poetry since the 1930s in historico-cultural matters of a kind not often associated with lyricism. There is of course nothing startling about the idea that, like all linguistic utterances, poetry derives its power to signify from the presupposed and/or implicit network of cultural contexts that it references, whether at the time of its writing or on the subsequent occasions of its reading. But Mead points to what he calls the ‘ideology’ of lyricism: the (similarly cultural) assumption that, as a genre of discourse, poetic language offers a kind of purely personal outpouring, one that is somehow distinct from social affairs. That is, the lyric is culturally understood as paradoxically devoid of cultural involvement.
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