Formalism seems a classical obsession, but Angela Leighton argues in her recent On Form that the key moment came with romanticism. Schiller said that in a beautiful poem “the content should do nothing, the form everything . . . . the real artistic secret of the master consists in his annihilating the material by means of the form.” Coleridge found that Shakespeare’s characters are “ideal: they are not the things but the abstracts of the things which a great mind may take into itself and naturalize to its own heaven.”
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