Reader 1: What a fascinating book! But where to begin? Would it be too obvious to begin at the beginning?

Reader 2: Yes, it would. Especially since Helsinger herself eschews linearity. Her chapters, for instance, are not arranged chronologically: the chapter on the Romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Clare is in the middle, sandwiched between the Victorians.

Reader 1: True. And now that you mention it, she also does something very interesting in the introductory chapter—

Reader 2: So you are beginning with the beginning after all.

Reader 1: Yes, but listen. The introduction begins much as we would expect, by articulating the book’s two central claims. First, Helsinger argues that the lyric, though it is often viewed as solitary and self-involved (especially in the nineteenth century), is inherently conversational—that “the desire for responsiveness” is essential to the genre (p. 2). Second, she argues that conversation carries ethical...

You do not currently have access to this content.