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Identity and Society in American Poetry: The Romantic Tradition By Robin Mookerjee ...

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Identity and Society in American Poetry:


The Estrangement of Poet and Reader

This text explores the inherent conflict between Romantic idealism and the ideal of community, using the work of American modern and postmodern poets as a case study. While these writers may at first seem an unlikely choice to illustrate this conflict and, indeed, its resolution, I regard them as inheritors of the Romantic and Transcendentalist traditions. This tradition, valuing privacy and inspiration, is incompatible with the major model of community of its time, that of Enlightenment Liberalism. Romantic idealists, I believe, have always had an uneasy relationship with empiricist ways of knowing and with the Lockean model that reduces the individual to a set of specific needs balanced against those of society at large. Ultimately, Romanticism seeks to replace the exchange of value, an endless negotiation, with transcendental truth as the basis of society.