“Composition!”: On Parts and Wholes in Poetics (ca. 1800)
Well into the present, the idea that the work of art is – at least potentially – a whole has been one of the basic models for understanding literary composition. More recently this model has come in for heavy criticism from literary theorists who argue that the idea of wholeness is freighted with assumptions of totality, unity, and completeness that are suspect not only aesthetically, but politically. My talk aims to contribute to this wider discussion by examining some mereological theories from around 1800.