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One World? The Poetics of Passenger Flight and the Perception of the Global

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


The poetry of passenger flight, especially in the early years of the jet age, is exceptional in illuminating the perceptual, affective, and ethical confusions of the global perspective. Offering readings of James Merrill's “Flying from Byzantium,” Elizabeth Bishop's “Night City,” Amiri Baraka's “The Nation Is like Ourselves,” and Derek Walcott's “The Fortunate Traveller,” this essay integrates theoretical grounding in the phenomenology of flight (speed, distance, time, and perspective), the legacy of Romantic landscape meditation in contemporary poetry and the evolution of the literature of flight, and relevant historical background about the development of commercial air travel. The passenger's view in the period when flight was no longer thrilling and not yet tedious is a peculiarly apt trope for the difficulties of imagining the global and of registering the conundrum of globalization—in its most basic sense, time-space compression—from its repercussions in our private lives to the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time.

Research Article
Copyright © 2012 by The Modern Language Association of America

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