Sentimentality, Desire, and Aestheticism in Lolita
Yeats’s image for the peripatetic poet’s sudden schoolroom yearning condenses, Anita Sokolsky suggests, the poem’s “eroticized sentimentality.” Its potential for sentimentality derives not only from the ostentatious self-display, even self-indulgence, of a heart “driven wild” that refuses to censor its grief and its claims upon our sympathy—insinuatingly implicating us in its hyperbolic claims—but also from a personifying trope in which the “living child” implicitly evinces a dead one re-animated or recovered from memory by the urgency of the poet’s yearning. This recovery relies on nostalgia’s power to convert before from a temporal marker to a spatial one asserting recovered presence: “she stands before me as a living child.” The spatial and temporal oscillation of before—a hypersaturated repository for the poet’s loss and nostalgia–brings out a similar oscillation in thereupon’s spatial and temporal locating of insight, which marks the stanza’s sense that the poet has been blindsided by his own yearning, by his expressive capacities for evincing loss. This rhythm of concretization and dispersal, recovery and loss, marks the ambivalence of the trope bringing the child to life before the poet’s gaze. One’s heart is perhaps driven wild because the “living child” tends, with another turn of the screw, to threaten the perseity of the aging poet who witnesses this resurrection.2
KeywordsDeath Drive Moral Insight Sexual Ideology Aesthetic Formalization Aesthetic Education
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