Poetry, Politics, and Culture: Argument in the Work of Eliot, Pound, Stevens, and Williams

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Transaction Publishers - 279 pages

A salient feature of modern poetics is its direct connection with cultural history and politics. Among the great American poets of the twentieth century, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams offer a significant contrast with T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Where the latter advocated a theocentric or reactionary response to the cultural crises of modernity, the former affirmed an essentially humanist and democratic social and aesthetic ethos. In Poetry, Politics, and Culture, Harold Kaplan offers a penetrating comparative study of these representative and distinctively influential poets.

All four poets wrote in an atmosphere of cultural crisis following World War I, caught as they were between outmoded belief systems and various forms of artistic and political nihilism. While each believed in poetry as a source of cultural values and beliefs, they nevertheless experienced loss of confidence in their own vocation in a world characterized by scientific, rationalist thinking and the mundane struggle for survival. For each, therefore, the poetic imagination was a means of restoring order, or building a new civilization out of chaos. In trying to define a revitalized culture, the four exemplified the perennial quarrel between Europe and America.

 

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Contents

Introduction and Argument
3
Dissociations Natural and Supernatural
19
The Silhouette of Man
27
Purgatory and Apocalypse
37
A Problem of Order
47
The Old Sublime
57
The Vortex of Art
67
Esthetic Politics
79
The Imagination as Value
147
The Dehumanization of Art
165
The City as a Man
175
A Peculiar Majesty
187
The Sign and Presence of the Human
197
Cultural and Humanist Poetics
211
Poetry Culture and Politics
233
The Ethical Humanism of Emmanuel Levinas
257

Prejudice and Abstraction
87
A Confidence in the World
99
A Malady of the Quotidian
111
The Necessary Angel of Reality
127
Bakhtin and the American Poets
265
A Note on Ethics and Dialogue in the Works of Levinas Bakhtin Mandelshtam and Celan
269
Index
277
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Page 4 - Those masterful images because complete Grew in pure mind, but out of what began? A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street, Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can, Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone, I must lie down where all the ladders start, In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.
Page 8 - Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance...
Page 10 - And served us right for having instituted Downward comparisons. As long on earth As our comparisons were stoutly upward With gods and angels, we were men at least, But little lower than the gods and angels. But once comparisons were yielded downward, Once we began to see our images Reflected in the mud and even dust, "P. 221. " Cf. Bertrand Russell on science as "power knowledge" in The Scientific Outlool( (New York, 1931), pp.

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