What is it for poetry to be serious and to be taken seriously? What is it to be open to poetry, exposed to its force, attuned to what it says and alive to what it does? These are important questions that call equally on poetry and philosophy. But poetry and philosophy, notoriously, have an ancient quarrel. Maximilian de Gaynesford sets out to understand and convert their mutual antipathy into something mutually enhancing, so that we can begin to answer these and other questions. The key to attuning poetry and philosophy lies in the fact that poetic utterances are best appreciated as doing things. For it is as doing things that the speech act approach in analytic philosophy of language tries to understand all utterances. Taking such an approach, this book offers ways to enhance our appreciation of poetry and to develop our understanding of philosophy. It explores work by a range of poets from Chaucer to Geoffrey Hill and J. H. Prynne, and culminates in an extended study of Shakespeare's Sonnets. What work does poetry set itself, and how does this determine the way it is to be judged? What do poets commit themselves to, and what they may be held responsible for?
What role does a poet have, or their audience, or their context, in determining the meaning of a poem, what work it is able to achieve? These are the questions that an attuned approach is able to ask and answer.
Maximilian de Gaynesford is Professor of Philosophy and Head of Department at the University of Reading. Formerly a Fellow of Lincoln College Oxford and a Professor at the College of William and Mary, he is the author of I: The Meaning of the First Person Term (2006), Hilary Putnam (2006), and John McDowell (2004), as well as of papers in philosophical logic, the philosophy of mind and language, ethics and aesthetics.
PART I: SENSE AND SENSITIVITY; PART II: DOING THINGS WITH ATTUNEMENT