Leonardo: The Poetry of the Possible

By Jan Baetens
Leonardo Reviews

nickels_poetry coverThe Modern muse, as shown convincingly by Hugh Kenner in a seminal book, is a mechanical one. Hence, the wide-spread suspicion in high-modernist circles of spontaneity, often denounced as a myth, an illusion, a dangerous belief in old-fashioned, romantic notions of the inspired genius. In addition, this mechanical muse is also characterized as an inward turn, a preference given to the more authentic world of the inner self rather than to the harsh realities of the world outside.

Recent and contemporary visions of Modernity have started interrogating, if not rejecting these assumptions, and Joel Nickel's timely book is a clear yet very radical example of this reversal. Nickel does not only stress the importance of spontaneity in Modernist texts and authors, he also, and perhaps more surprisingly, underlines the necessary political interpretation of spontaneity which has no longer only to do with the foregrounding of the writer's individuality.

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