The poetics of transition: Emerson, pragmatism, & American literary modernism
The Poetics of Transition examines the connection between American pragmatism and literary modernism by focusing on the concept of transition as a theme common to both movements. Jonathan Levin begins with the Emersonian notion that transition—the movement from one state or condition to another or, alternately, the figural enactment of that movement—is infused with power. He then offers a revisionary reading of the pragmatists’ view of the permeability of subjective and objective realms and of how American literary modernists stage this permeability in the language and form of their writing.
Levin draws on the pragmatist and neopragmatist writings of William James, John Dewey, George Santayana, Richard Rorty, and Cornel West to illuminate the work of modernist literature. In turn, he illuminates the poetic imperatives of pragmatism by tracing the ways in which Henry James, Gertrude Stein, and Wallace Stevens capture the moment of transition—a paradoxical moment that, once it is represented in language or art, requires its own perpetual overcoming. Throughout, he explores how modernist writers, who are masters at recording such “illegible” moments of transition in their poetry and prose, significantly contribute to an expanded understanding of pragmatism and its underlying aesthetics. By linking Emerson with the progressive philosophy of turn-of-the-century pragmatism and the experimentation of American literary modernism, Levin offers new insight into Emerson’s lasting influence on later American philosophers, novelists, and poets.
The Poetics of Transition will interest scholars and students in the fields of literary criticism, neopragmatism, literary modernism, and American literature.
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abstract activity Aesthetics of Pragmatism American appears beautiful become belief chapter character conception consciousness constitute context critics cultivate culture definite describes Dewey and Santayana Dewey's Drama of Transition dynamic elusive Emerson Emerson's Pragmatic Idealism Emersonian emphasis energies essay fact feeling fiction foreground formulation function George Santayana Gertrude Stein Golden Bowl Henry James human ideas individual insists intellectual intelligence James's Jeff language Library of America literary living Maggie Maggie's meaning Melanctha metaphysical mind moral Movement of Words nature never object paradox passage perception philosophy Plato poem poet Poetics of Transition poetry possible Pragmatist Imagination Principles of Psychology processes prose Ralph Barton Perry rational reality realized realms recognize relation rhythm Richard Poirier Rorty self's sense skeptical social spirit Stevens's stream of thought Strether suggests things thinking tion truth understanding unfolding Wallace Stevens William Bronk William James writing