Poetry, Politics, and Culture

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

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Description

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. The first two became expatriates, seeking an escape from alienation by grounding poetic imagination and practice in forms of European tradition. For Eliot, culture meant the ordering metaphysics and institutions of the Church, while Pound's attempt to counter disorder led him to embrace Italian fascism. By contrast, Kaplan shows that Stevens and Williams, following Emerson and Thoreau, evolved a poetics that opposed the notion of cultural hierarchy and the fallen nature of man. As Kaplan makes clear, the problems that confronted these poets closely parallel the terms and conflicts of cultural issues at the forefront of contemporary political debate. "Poetry, Politics, and Culture" will be of interest to literary historians and critics, American studies specialists, and intellectual historians.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 307 pages
  • 160 x 236.2 x 25.4mm | 589.68g
  • Taylor & Francis Inc
  • Transaction Publishers
  • Somerset, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0765803038
  • 9780765803030

About Harold Kaplan

Harold Kaplan is professor emeritus, English and American Literature, at Northwestern University and formerly taught at Rutgers University and Bennington College. He is the author of The Passive Voice: An Approach to Modern Fiction and Democratic Humanism and American Literature, published by Transaction.show more

Review quote

-Kaplan offers insightful readings of particular poems, essays, and letters... Extensive collections supporting work at the upper-division undergraduate level and above.- --G. Grieve-Carlson, Choice -Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, Poetry, Politics and Culture...represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest.- --Internet Bookwatch --Kaplan does a remarkably good job of moving between and among four major figures. . . . Kaplan arranges things so that readers are treated to a clearly foregrounded 'major quarrel, ' a conflict that is, frankly, fun to watch as it is very deliberately laid out. This book thus seeks to master one of several methods in which critics can refute the conventional notion that American modernists were blind to political life. . . . Kaplan at times surprises us with his choice of Stevens' poems to make this or that point. Proponents of Stevens-Williams modernism--such as it is, as an odd whole harmonium--will feel affirmed by this fascinating study.- --Alan Filreis, The Wallace Stevens Journal Rated a -Must Read- by Lex Ticonderoga, Today's Books. -Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, Poetry, Politics, & Culture is not light reading, but it is very clearly written and represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest.- --Midwest Book Review -Poetry, Politics and Culture is full of sensitive and challenging readings of poems by Stevens and Williams.- --Leon Surette, Time Present "Kaplan offers insightful readings of particular poems, essays, and letters... Extensive collections supporting work at the upper-division undergraduate level and above." --G. Grieve-Carlson, Choice "Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, Poetry, Politics and Culture...represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest." --Internet Bookwatch ""Kaplan does a remarkably good job of moving between and among four major figures. . . . Kaplan arranges things so that readers are treated to a clearly foregrounded 'major quarrel, ' a conflict that is, frankly, fun to watch as it is very deliberately laid out. This book thus seeks to master one of several methods in which critics can refute the conventional notion that American modernists were blind to political life. . . . Kaplan at times surprises us with his choice of Stevens' poems to make this or that point. Proponents of Stevens-Williams modernism--such as it is, as an odd whole harmonium--will feel affirmed by this fascinating study." --Alan Filreis, The Wallace Stevens Journal Rated a "Must Read" by Lex Ticonderoga, Today's Books. "Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, Poetry, Politics, & Culture is not light reading, but it is very clearly written and represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest." --Midwest Book Review "Poetry, Politics and Culture is full of sensitive and challenging readings of poems by Stevens and Williams." --Leon Surette, Time Present "Kaplan offers insightful readings of particular poems, essays, and letters... Extensive collections supporting work at the upper-division undergraduate level and above." --G. Grieve-Carlson, Choice "Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, Poetry, Politics and Culture...represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest." --Internet Bookwatch ""Kaplan does a remarkably good job of moving between and among four major figures. . . . Kaplan arranges things so that readers are treated to a clearly foregrounded 'major quarrel, ' a conflict that is, frankly, fun to watch as it is very deliberately laid out. This book thus seeks to master one of several methods in which critics can refute the conventional notion that American modernists were blind to political life. . . . Kaplan at times surprises us with his choice of Stevens' poems to make this or that point. Proponents of Stevens-Williams modernism--such as it is, as an odd whole harmonium--will feel affirmed by this fascinating study." --Alan Filreis, The Wallace Stevens Journal Rated a "Must Read" by Lex Ticonderoga, Today's Books. "Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, Poetry, Politics, & Culture is not light reading, but it is very clearly written and represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest." --Midwest Book Review "Poetry, Politics and Culture is full of sensitive and challenging readings of poems by Stevens and Williams." --Leon Surette, Time Present "Kaplan offers insightful readings of particular poems, essays, and letters... Extensive collections supporting work at the upper-division undergraduate level and above." --G. Grieve-Carlson, Choice "Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, "Poetry, Politics and Culture"...represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest." "--Internet Bookwatch" "Kaplan arranges things so that readers are treated to a clearly foregrounded aemajor quarrel, ' a conflict that is, frankly, fun to watch as it is very deliberately laid out. This book thus seeks to master one of several methods in which critics can refute the conventional notion that American modernists were blind to political life.... Kaplan at times surprises us with his choice of Stevens' poems to make this or that point. Proponents of Stevens-Williams modernism--such as it is, as an odd whole harmonium--will feel affirmed by this fascinating study. The book claims that these two Americans evolved a poetics refuting cultural hierarchy and doubting the fallen state as properly descriptive of the human." --Alan Filreis, ""The Wallace Stevens Journal"" Rated a "Must Read" by Lex Ticonderoga, "Today's Books". "Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students of American Studies, literature, poetry and history, "Poetry, Politics, & Culture" is not light reading, but it is very clearly written and represents definitive thinking about America's intellectual and poetic history at its finest." "--Midwest Book Review" "Kaplan arranges things so that readers are treated to a clearly foregrounded "major quarrel," a conflict that is, frankly, fun to watch as it is very deliberately laid out. This book thus seeks to master one of several methods in which critics can refute the conventional notion that American modernists were blind to political life.... Kaplan at times surprises us with his choice of Stevens' poems to make this or that point. "And there are dazzling passages on Williams' Emersonian affirmations, Eliot's dissociative program and his xenophobic shock tactics, a good new look at the problem of the anti-poet, Pound's interest in "the old sublime," connections between Stevens' evolved comic man and Prufrock, and one of the finest renderings of Stevens' necessary angel I have read.... Proponents of Stevens-Williams modernism--such as it is, as an odd whole harmonium--will feel affirmed by this fascinating study. The book claims that these two Americans evolved a poetics refuting cultural hierarchy and doubting the fallen state as properly descriptive of the human." "--Alan Filreis, The Wallace Stevens Journal ""Poetry, Politics and Culture" is full of sensitive and challenging readings of poems by Stevens and Williams."--Leon Surette, "Time Present"show more