James Schuyler and the Rhetoric of Temporality

  • Geoff Ward
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


To adopt and amplify a term used in passing by Harold Rosenberg, modern artists have been driven to choose an art of deep, or of layered, space.1 To an art of deep space, as the term immediately implies, would belong all questions and certainties of religion, metaphysics, or the extremes of subjectivism. Any hierarchical ordering of perceptual data will likewise tend towards an art of deep space. The tradition of Romantic landscape painting that depicts the inner as much as the outer world, epitomized by Friedrich or Turner, would clearly be a deep space genre by these lights, and one that has continued to evolve up to the present day. For example, jumping to the years following the Second World War, and the translation of Werner von Braun from Nazi armourer to architect of the NASA space program, the word ‘rocket’ would take on an understandable ambiguity, signifying both military conquest and America’s Cold War colonization of outer space. The avant-garde painting of this period, exemplified by the work of Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko, absorbs the bequest of Friedrich’s European landscape tradition and pushes it to a new intensity of inwardness.2 That body of work may be viewed as both an assertion of inner-space subjectivity over the claims of the social centre, and an unintentional homage to a New World empire pleased to fund massive abstracts on a par with the more literal explorations of deep space engineered by its technological élite.


Layered Space Deep Space Military Conquest Contradictory Feeling Contemporary Poetry 
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  1. 2.
    For a fully developed argument linking Abstract Expressionism to the Romantic landscape tradition, see Robert Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    William Carlos Williams, The Collected Poems 1909–1939 (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1987), p. 174.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Paul de Man, ‘Lyric and Modernity’, in Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (London: Methuen, rev. ed., 1983), p. 184. For comments by O’Hara on Auden, see the interview with Edward Lucie-Smith in SSWNY.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    W. H. Auden, Collected Poems (London: Faber, 1976), p. 132.Google Scholar
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    Charles Baudelaire, The Complete Verse, tr. Francis Scarfe (London: Anvil Press, 1986), pp. 262 and 159.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Charles Baudelaire, ‘Of the Essence of Laughter, and generally of the Comic in the Plastic Arts’, Baudelaire: Selected Writings on Art and Artists, tr. P. E. Charvet (Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1981), p. 143.Google Scholar
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    Barbara Johnon, ‘Rigorous Unreliability’, Yale French Studies 69, (1985), p. 74.Google Scholar
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    Christopher Norris, ‘Some Versions of Rhetoric’, in R. C. Davis and R. Schleifer (eds), Rhetoric and Form: Deconstruction at Yale (Norman: Oklahoma U. P., 1985), p. 201.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Geoff Ward 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoff Ward
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

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