Literary Criticism

American Poetic Materialism from Whitman to Stevens by Mark Noble

By Mark Noble

In American Poetic Materialism from Whitman to Stevens, Mark Noble examines writers who proportion the idea that personhood may be understood as a cloth occasion. via new readings of Whitman, Emerson, Santayana, and Stevens, Noble uncovers a literary background wrestling with the implications of its personal materialism, and asks what this account of shared materiality can let us know concerning the such a lot profoundly secular types of the trendy topic. At a second whilst a number of new versions of the connection among human adventure and its actual floor flow between serious theorists and philosophers of technology, American Poetic Materialism explores poets who've lengthy requested what our materiality can let us know approximately our customers for brand new versions of our fabric selves.

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

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9 In James’s caricature of philosophical idealism, for instance, we “feel the charm” of an imagined commensurability with the physical world. The idealist senses intimacy with a world and then reduces that world’s heterogeneity to a single abstraction designed to consecrate and perpetuate that sensation. ” Adorno demonstrates the necessary instability and eventual untenability of that condition. Even the prose James employs for this caricature signals, I have argued, the uncanny convergence of commensurability and incommensurability – or intimacy and alterity.

Accounts of the action of billiard balls in illustrations of Newton’s third of law of motion, for instance, presume to describe the behavior of invisible atomic particles Intimate Atomisms 35 without troubling the coherence of the principle they demonstrate. But the appeal to perceptible analogues is somewhat more problematic for materialist attempts to describe, say, the phenomenon of perception itself. How, for instance, can one reliably describe human cognition as the result of contact between physical bodies if those bodies must themselves be imagined before they can be described?

The atom, from Democritus onward, owes its exceptional durability and ubiquity to a tenuous set of features that must be imagined because they cannot be observed. Unlike the phenomenal realities to which they give rise, atoms are said to be permanent and impenetrable. At once infinitely dense and infinitesimally small, the essential structural component of whatever appears cannot itself be called to presence. Materialists thus describe the atom using analogies to observable phenomena and by positing ontological abstractions that frame it as a concept, and the consequent abstraction inhabits both the simplest models of the atomic universe and the most elaborate.

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