American Poetic Materialism from Whitman to Stevens by Mark Noble

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By Mark Noble

In American Poetic Materialism from Whitman to Stevens, Mark Noble examines writers who percentage the belief that personhood might be understood as a cloth occasion. via new readings of Whitman, Emerson, Santayana, and Stevens, Noble uncovers a literary historical past wrestling with the results of its personal materialism, and asks what this account of shared materiality can let us know concerning the so much profoundly secular versions of the trendy topic. At a second whilst a number of new versions of the connection among human event and its actual flooring stream between severe theorists and philosophers of technology, American Poetic Materialism explores poets who've lengthy requested what our materiality can let us know approximately our clients for brand spanking new versions of our fabric selves.

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Additional info for American Poetic Materialism from Whitman to Stevens (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture)

Example text

The man-machine achieves a practical atheism capable of dispelling its mythology and enhancing its pleasure. But this achievement, as La 34 American Poetic Materialism Mettrie himself acknowledges, also relocates that subject’s imponderable features to the invisible underpinnings of physical reality.  . as content with being ignorant of how inert, simple matter becomes active and compounded into organs, as I am with being unable to look at the sun without red glasses” (68).  . to an invincible ignorance on which our happiness depends” (75).

Neither the “return to Kant” nor the “return to consciousness” satisfies the atomistic ambition to ground the human in what James calls the “concrete fulness” of the material; neither obviates La Mettrie’s endorsement of ignorance. One wonders, then, whether these options are the only ones from which to choose. If we part with Adorno because his dialectical ironies merely void the content of our material attachments, how do we counter the fact that every demystification lapses into a new mystification, and attempts to correct that error into still more intransigent mysticisms?

As idealists, we tend to discover ourselves in organizing principles of the material world, but we find that the perpetual labor of defining those principles also records the emptiness of our classifications and general laws. As materialists who abhor such conceptual “abridgments” of the diverse plenitudes of the objective world, we nevertheless crave some kind of communion, however implausible, with a sublime power derived from that world. In James’s account, then, each philosophical paradigm is pointed at the form of value offered by its opponent: idealism secures the human at the cost of the “teeming and dramatic richness of the concrete world”; materialism secures the concrete world at the cost of a stable or coherent position from which to appreciate that richness (69).

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