American Experimental Poetry and Democratic Thought

American Experimental Poetry and Democratic Thought

by Alan Marshall


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Alan Marshall examines the nature of democratic thought and expression in American experimental poetry, from Walt Whitman in the mid-nineteenth century to George Oppen and Frank O'Hara in the mid-late twentieth. The book's origins lie in Alexis de Tocqueville's ambivalent discussion of 'Some Sources of Poetic Inspiration in Democracies' in the second volume of his Democracy in America. It begins with a chapter on Tocqueville and Whitman, followed by a re-evaluation of the flawed republican humanism of Ezra Pound in the light of the thought of Hannah Arendt. The other main poets considered are Robert Creeley, Emily Dickinson, Mina Loy, Lorine Niedecker, Muriel Rukeyser, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams.

American Poetry and Democratic Thought argues against the narrowly ideological interpretation of politics that dominates contemporary literary studies, an attitude that can be traced back to the legacies of Marx and Freud, and conceives of ideology in deterministic terms as unconscious political alignment. To that extent it echoes Tocqueville's concern, in his great work, to underline the differences between his own methods and perspectives and the historical determinism of his contemporaries. The book draws upon a wide range of thinkers, including Madison, Tocqueville, Kant, Marx, Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Riesman, Arendt, Benhabib, and Cavell, as it seeks to expand and develop Tocqueville's circumspect humanist critical trajectory. The chapters are conceived as a series of innovative dialogical constellations, to which the close reading of poetry is central. The aim throughout is to measure the thought of the poets or their poems against the thoughts of those who are more often called thinkers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199561926
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 12/13/2009
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

1 The Flag of His Disposition: Whitman's Posture 14

1.1 'On Some Sources of Poetic Inspiration in Democracies' 16

1.2 Freud and Narcissism 26

1.3 'Beneath Thy Look O Maternal' 34

1.4 Whitman and Winnicott 38

1.5 'A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim', 'The Wound-Dresser', Calamus 42

1.6 'Is This Then a Touch?' 50

2 The Poet in the Dark: Ezra Pound, an Arendtian Perspective 55

2.1 Subjects and Objects 59

2.2 Actions: Aristotle, Marx, Marxists, Arendt 71

2.3 Revolutions and Recognitions 83

2.4 Craft or Consensus? 87

3 I am alive-because | I do not own a House' Emily Dickinson Mina Loy Lorine Niedecker 92

3.1 The Philosopher's House: From Arendt to Cavell 92

3.2 From Cavell to Dickinson 101

3.3 Four Facets of Unheimlichkeit: Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Gilman 112

3.4 Mina Loy 119

3.5 Lorine Niedecker 136

4 Williams Stevens Williams...Continuing Revolution 146

4.1 Revolution 149

4.2 The Federalist Critique 151

4.3 In the American Grain 155

4.4 Use and Use-Value 162

4.5 Representations: From Madison to Kant 173

4.6 From Representation to Exchange-Relations 179

4.7 The Enigma of Form 185

4.8 'Life Is Not Dialectics' 190

5 Robert Creeley's Lonely Crowd 195

5.1 From Williams to Creeley 197

5.2 The New American Nervousness: Riesman and Heidegger 209

5.3 'Poem for D. H. Lawrence' 217

5.4 Language, Politics, Commonplaces 223

5.5 Diffidence 229

6 'Ferocious Mumbling in Public': George Oppen 233

6.1 Another Look at Oppen and Heidegger 233

6.2 'Poetry Defined as a Job, a Piece of Work' 246

6.3 'More than Politics Really' 258

6.4 'Of Being Numerous'262

6.5 Fellow Travellers Richard Wright Muriel Rukeyser 270

Conclusion: 'Your Marvellous Appearances': Frank O'Hara 288

List of Works Cited 299

Index 309

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