The Minimal Unit

The minimal unit in romantic-period writing maintains the uneasy status of being in time as well as out of it: both temporalized as a condition of occurring and sufficiently freestanding to withstand incorporation to any narrative in which the present would be captured by the future in becoming anterior and contained or, in the case of poem like Shelley’s “Mont Blanc,” in bringing “vacancy” to some larger account. Closer to an instance of “stopped time,” the minimal unit marks an interval where time proceeds just enough for something monadic to occur as a pathway (or detour) to something else--some other timescape, some other world or stratum, some recessive consciousness--of which the unit is now an apprehendable trace.