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The Unconditional: Simon Jarvis

The Unconditional
Simon Jarvis

Advance praise for The Unconditional: “Doffing the triumphal mail, he degraded himself into the captive trousers! The breast dissculptured with scaly bosses, by covering it with a transparent texture he bared; panting still after the work of war, and (as it were) softening, he extinguished it with the ventilating silk! Not sufficiently swelling of spirit was the Macedonian, unless he had likewise found delight in a highly inflated garb: only that philosophers withal (I believe) themselves affect somewhat of that kind; for I hear that therehas been philosophizing in purple. If a philosopher in purple, why not in gilded slippers too?” —Tertullian.

£15.00, 242pp, ISBN 978-1-903488-43-0, Sept 2005

Author Biography

Simon Jarvis is the Gorley Putt Professor of Poetry and Poetics at the University of Cambridge. He has also taught at Newcastle, Cornell and Johns Hopkins. He works on the poetics of verse, and is currently completing a monograph on the poetics of rhyme for Cambridge University Press. His books include Wordsworth’s Philosophic Song (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007; reprinted, 2008); Adorno: a critical introduction (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998; reprinted, 2003); and Scholars and Gentlemen: Shakespearean textual criticism and representations of scholarly labour, 1725-1765 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).

More about Simon Jarvis»


“Thanks.” Jobless went off out to check the post

ready to tear up the letter from Agramant

which he was sure would any day arrive.

A thin house dust with traces of the dead

lay quietly expiring on the sills

and other surfaces of his domain

and calling to him with contralto voice

the dust asked pity which since still as yet

it was impossible for him to give

to any thing so little absolute

as mitochondria of the domestic world

ought more than shadowless perception he

instead adjusted by an inch his jaw

adjusting thus the inadjustable loss

inflicted on him daily by himself



from the review by Tom Jones:

The Unconditional seems set to become the market-leader in book-length poems on the phenomenological constitution of the poetic subject through the materiality of voice and text. It is a reworking of Book III of The Prelude (‘Time in Cambridge’) as a car crash in Hertfordshire that combines pastiches of the Popeian couplet and a Cambridge-school lexicon in new and interesting ways. It is the most thorough investigation extant of the effects of twentieth-century recording technology in performances of Schubert on radical leftism. Its critique of early structuralist and later Wittgensteinian accounts of meaning guarantee its topical relevance, whilst its profession of writing entirely without irony renders its argument classic. I imagine it will have a shelf-life of well over a decade, and would sell well in a paperback print run. I recommend it to you without reservation."

from A Letter to Simon Jarvis by Keston Sutherland, 27th August 2004: "It is a poem not only unique in its accomplishment of thinking, into which it earns its way with the most strenuous imaginable commitment, truly a philosophic song like no other; it is unique also and perhaps more profoundly in its immense, anannihilative fidelity to the living need for uniqueness, for the one particularity of uniqueness itself not to be shaded off somewhere into the pastel reserves of a generalisable concepthood but to be here and now, if that’s the only place and time where heaven is though not itself at least myself."


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