Literary Criticism

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The Butterfly Hatch

Literary Experience in the Quest for Wisdom: Uncanonically Seating H.D

Richard Vytniorgu is a Midlands3Cities Fellow and teaches English at the University of Leicester. Between 2014–17 he was a Midlands3Cities–AHRC PhD candidate at De Montfort University, where he has also taught literary theory. He has published on personalism, modernism, and literary theory in Modern Language Review, Humanities, and Educational Journal of Living Theories. He is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and is currently on the editorial board for Peer English.

Some of H.D.’s most oft-quoted lines have to do with the meaning and value of words; they are conditioned to hatch butterflies. Yet rather than seeking merely to understand how H.D. represented the meaning and value of words, this volume uses ‘the butterfly hatch’ as a metaphor for thinking more broadly about the capacity of literary experience to hatch transformed persons – ‘butterflies’ in quest of wisdom in university English studies. Dislodging H.D. from her usual modernist context, this book positions her as a thinker and reads her autobiographical prose and recently published work of the 1940s for its ability to offer new insights into such pertinent and interconnected areas as literary contexts, imagination, and personal and social transformation.

H.D. has, in her own words, always been 'uncanonically seated', resistant to rigid classification; the texture of her work celebrates internal, existential resonances that evidence the emergence of personality. The author capitalizes on this facet of H.D.’s work and uncanonically seats her in conversation with the neglected literary theorist, Louise Rosenblatt (1904–2005), whose transactional contribution uniquely fuses critical theory, politics, philosophy, and educational vision.

This book synthesizes the work of H.D. and Rosenblatt to create an emergent personalist theory of literary experience in the quest for wisdom, crystallizing links between philosophical anthropology, aesthetics, pedagogy, and the politics of human relations. Benefiting from access to unpublished material housed at Columbia, New York, and Yale universities, Vytniorgu combines analysis and theorizing to offer a significant, pedagogically-inflected intervention in literary studies, arguing that university English studies must incorporate critical and pedagogical vantages which open a window on wisdom as well as knowledge.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-937-1
Hardback Price: £50.00 / $69.95
Release Date: December 2018
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976024-8
Paperback Price: £25.00/ $34.95
Release Date: September 2019
Page Extent / Format: 200 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Illustrations




An Uncanonical Direction
Humanism and Personalism: A Philosophical Inroad
Pathways to Wisdom
Intersecting Contemporary Theories
The Butterfly Hatch


Foregrounding Individual Experience
Being and Freedom in Paint it Today
The Rationale for the Transactional Theory of Experience
Personal Contexts
The Student’s Experience


Personalizing Literary Experience
Aesthetic Reading, Associational Thinking, and Literary Contexts
Associational Consciousness in The Sword Went Out to Sea
Veering Round in The Mystery


The Palimpsest of Imagination
Literary Imagination: Romantic and Cognitive Perspectives
Palimpsestuous Consciousness and ‘The Greek Boy’


The Role of the Literatus
New Vistas: The Responsibility of the Literatus
Carrying and Spinning in The Walls Do Not Fall: The Activity of the Literatus


Wisdom in the University
Feeling Like a Knowledge Worker
From Knowledge to Wisdom: Nicholas Maxwell’s Cri de Cœur


Personalities in Quest
Learning Transformative Languages
Hatching an Existential Self: H.D. in Quest


Literary Studies and (Re)vivification


Vytniorgu throws down the gauntlet. Assailing the current top-down, information-dispensing approaches to reading in university English studies, he ingeniously has the creative writings of HD dialogue with the theoretical work of Louise Rosenblatt, to fashion dramatic alternatives.
Gordon M. Pradl, Professor Emeritus, New York University

This book addresses several profound questions. Why do we read? Can literature develop wisdom? What do we mean by ‘education’? Articulating complex ideas with refreshing clarity, Vytniorgu’s study makes original contributions to the fields of modernist literary studies, philosophy, and pedagogical theory, in the process developing a timely case for the humanities and extending the boundaries of literary studies.
Sarah Parker, Lecturer in English, Loughborough University

The book is a brilliant and urgent call for new interventions in both the study and teaching of literature. Vytniorgu, whose indebtedness to the theory and practice of Louise Rosenblatt is everywhere evident, promises readers greater self-knowledge and enhanced understanding of some of the central existential issues of life. The book upends most established approaches to both the study and teaching of literature, especially those that remove the person from readings of texts and ignore crucial concepts such as wisdom. The Butterfly Hatch is an indispensible work, therefore, for educators, students, and nonprofessional readers interested in learning about themselves and the world from their encounters with literature.
Elizabeth A. Flynn, Professor Emerita, Michigan Tech University

This literary theory study for educators, students, and scholars explores alternative approaches to studying and teaching literature, which integrate humanism and personalism. Examining the work of poet Hilda Doolittle (H. D.), as well as the writing of Louise Rosenblatt, the book develops a personality theory of literary experience in the quest for wisdom. The book draws on cognitive studies, creative criticism, autoethnography, and transformative learning. Some topics addressed are associational consciousness in The Sword Went Out to Sea, and carrying and spinning in The Walls Do Not Fall.

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