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Pen of a Ready Writer. Sneakers on the Cross. Sweetie Pie Song Bird. Forever and Always. When I Stopped Counting. Inertia A Study. Ana Maria Caballero. Autumn's Yard. Dark Islands. Tom Chivers Traven T. No Avoiding it. The Philosophy of Unclean Things. Rosemarie Dombrowski. In Magikal Waters. Ruth Moon Kempher. Blessing for the Unborn.

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Standing on the Corner of Wright and Wrong. Big Thicket Blues. Natalie Giarratano. The Order of Controversy. Babbage's Dream. God Inspired Poetry.

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Woman of March. Waiting for Insanity Clause. Getting on with the World. Lynn Veach Sadler. Mineral Whisper. The Sinew of Forty Seven Years. William The Poet Cowper.

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A humid—or human—climate induces twinkling stars in Antarctica, for instance, do not twinkle. The figure of twinkling is thus evidence of ambience, a paradoxical "ground" for this figure, as the atmosphere is in front of the star.

Atmosphere is itself a consequence of the massiness of the earth; in other words, its gravity. Isaac Newton had made of space a vacuum, and turned matter into objectified solidity, and rendered space and time abstract and separate containers of the universe. Before Einstein, who asserted the radical inextricability of spacetime from the universe itself; and quantum physicists, who showed that there is no such thing as perfectly empty space; Romantic poets, with their figuration of atmosphere, and Romantic philosophers, with their interest in phenomenology, asserted the radical in-ness of reality.

This is ultimately a line of thought that leads to Lacan's notion that there is no metalanguage; and Derrida's statement, "Il n'y a pas d'hors texte" Derrida, Of Grammatology The "diamond"-like twinkling of the star in Taylor's poem, however, is a feature not only of physical space but also of ideology. Benjamin observes a very similar twinkling in the phantasmagoric space of the Paris arcades, an "ambiguity of space " created by their "abundance of mirrors": "the whispering of gazes fills the arcades" Benjamin They also call to mind the environmental art of contemporary figures such as Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy whose work now inhabits the Lake District, Lancashire and Southern Scotland.

Could we make a case for Wordsworth as an ambient poet, even though for Keats he was the poet of ego par excellence? We have seen in a previous section how Wordsworth attempts to flee the realm of commodified objects, only to find himself, like Alice approaching the Looking-Glass House, back where he started. Is this, however, entirely unfruitful? The sonnet on "getting and spending" is in the sequence that includes a highly original contemplation of city life, "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," one of Wordsworth's strongest examples of ambience.

Wordsworth's empty city already has the ambience of transitional spaces such as the airport, the hotel or the bay, spaces for which Brian Eno conceived ambient music. This music's power to disturb such spaces rather than tranquilize them should be noted: when Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports began to be used in Chicago O'Hare's United Tunnel, it was soon withdrawn because of passengers' complaints of heightened anxiety. Wordsworth's sonnet is equally disturbing, and tranquil.

The experience of the empty city is, as Raymond Williams noted, an entirely fresh "structure of feeling," Williams , and ambient music arose out of this structure: consider the techno music that emerged in the deracinated industrialism of Detroit, or the drum and bass that developed in the emptied spaces of South-East London, spaces inhabited by the black working class. The minimalist aesthetic of Wordsworth's poem resembles strikingly pieces of music such as Goldie's "Inner City Life" or the significantly named "Still Life" or the quiet speed of Derrick May and LTJ Bukem, poised hauntingly between an enjoyment of deracination and a critique of it.

Hartman has noted the minimalism of Lyrical Ballads , yet specifically pits this against industrialism Hartman But the picture is more complex than that. Williams observes that Wordsworth's city is that of republican civilization, in excess of industry: "before the noise of the working day, and also before the smoke of its later development" Williams It is the role of what Williams calls "before" that is so subtle.

Here is the poem:. This was noted even by the Wordsworth-phobic F. Leavis Leavis Thus the body emerges in Wordsworth's disembodied poem. Though it is legible in the negative it is not "in" the words or "on" the page , this is a remarkable phenomenon. The paratactic list, "Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples" 6 , alludes to Milton's Hell, "Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death" Paradise Lost , 2. But the "lying open" of these liminal spaces to the natural world of "fields" and "sky" 7 , and the ghostly presence of the sinthomic voice in the blank space of the page, that has become part of the sonnet, reveals far more of the existential substance of life.

This life-in-death is the flip side of what Freud's thinking on Eros "builder of cities" reveals, in his insight that life yearns towards, in James Strachey's poetic translation, "the quiescence of the inorganic word" Freud, Beyond 86; Hartman It is not even as simple as straightforwardly complicated as that, however.

What we are seeing is the ghostly substantiality of capital itself, as the potential energy of the city lies dormant in the early morning hours. The capitol becomes capital. The secret of this form is itself, lying open in all the vast emptinesses of modern living.

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What we have here is negative ecology , like negative theology see Zizek, Sublime Object ; Bull This is clarified in the istic glistening of the buildings, "All bright and glittering in the smokeless air" 8. Figure—the vertical masts and towers—is flattened into ground—fields and sky—through the word "lie. It is capital, then, that charges modern space with ambience, creating a force field of which nature the Lake District that Wordsworth offers as a retreat from modernity is actually an analogue rather than a counter-image.

Furthermore, its ambience is as double-edged as Wordsworth's: revealing a belonging that is also a longing. If "culture" is designed " convert longing into belonging " Hartman , to make space into place, then its products are paradoxical; for they unwind place into space again, belonging into longing.

The tables in Redfish, a Boulder restaurant, create ambience: they are so huge that one cannot hold hands across them. Symbols of the proprietor's wealth and metonymically the diner's , they are also symbols of division and longing. Wordsworth's De Chirico urban emptiness, and Taylor's empty intimate sky, cast the same spell, bestowing the feel of alien nation. We may conceive of "The Star" as oscillating between speculation and wondering ; or to put it in more loaded ideological terms, between French civilisation and German Kultur ; surely the Romance and Germanic origins of the two words I have chosen are not accidental Hartman , Eagleton, The Idea of Culture 9.

Speculation assumes the ability to jump to the impossible view of the other. Wondering implies radical location in space and time. Speculation may be noted in the view of the sun "When he nothing shines upon" 6 ; and the focalization through the mind of "the traveller in the dark" 9 , and his use of the star to triangulate his position, which implies being able to jump to the view of the other.

This is why Rousseau wants to educate Emile by having him get lost in a forest where he will be forced to triangulate to find his way home; a Spartan version of Enlightenment education. This implies that there cannot be a "world out there," if by that phrase one meant a truly existing independent, single and lasting realm of objects. On the other hand, the figure implies that the sun is still shining despite its unseenness. The ultimate ghostly presence, in patriarchy, is the phallus.

In that case, the reader might wonder whether the star is a feminine counterpart to this absent phallic sun; a dangerous supplement that fatally complicates the whole notion of a tight opposition between presence and absence, subject and object. Wondering what "you" are posits "me. One could not assume, however, that this is a form of solipsism: that would be to assert the ontological priority of "I"; and evidently the poem deals not with blank otherness, but with "you.

But to assume that children are not interested in philosophy is to reproduce the anti-intellectual and primitivist Romantic view of childhood. Heidegger's view of wondering is the reproduction of the attitude of a stupefied peasant Eagleton, Literary Theory 64 , the anti-intellectual enjoyment of place that Nazism installed at the very heart of a murderous rationalism.

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But in rejecting m, we should not reject introversion as if it could be identified entirely with Heideggerian thought. For it is this introverted contemplation that was precisely what the Nazis condemned "as being an offence against community feeling," as Freud condemned it as "an autoerotic, 'narcissistic' attitude" Jung This quiet wondering is what Geoffrey Hartman celebrates in the poetry of Wordsworth.

Giving the poet too much political power, Hartman cites Wordsworth as the reason England did not have a strong t moment. But to his credit, Hartman's praise of wondering is a significant counterblast to the instrumental reason that dominates bureaucratized intellectuality in the modern academy. Hartman writes:.

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For Hartman, as objective space collapses, subjective "spaciousness" remains potent. I wonder about the validity of Hartman's use of "room" as safe haven, sanctuary. It would be perilous to obtain a metaphysical distinction between inside and outside from the paradoxical image of an "outdoor room. This is a basic tenet of republicanism, whose image of liberty is the garden reduced in modern America to the lawn , as in Andrew Marvell's garden at Nun Appleton. And could not the idea of the outside as room serve to reproduce, howsoever subtly, the Nazi notion of Lebensraum? Even if not, one cannot help thinking of the paucity of the "lounge" or "living room" as a model for a contemplative space—one of the central inadequacies of Brian Eno's view of the role of ambience.

Surely common land, or a street corner, in our time a locus of racist arrests and of Miles Davis's On the Corner , a strongly ambient work —or Westminster Bridge—are more potent spaces?


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One function of ambience is to permeate and trouble the inside with the outside.