Language and the Renewal of Society in Walt Whitman, Laura (Riding) Jackson, and Charles Olson: The…

Hardcover | March 15, 2009

byCarla Billitteri

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This book takes up the utopian desire for a perfect language of words giving direct expression to the real, known in Western thought as Cratylism, and its impact on the social visions and poetic projects of three of the most intellectually ambitious of American writers: Walt Whitman, Laura (Riding) Jackson, and Charles Olson. A coda looks at the work of the Language writers, who carry forward this tradition in surprising ways. Based on close readings of theoretical and poetic texts, and drawing on archival research, this book makes two basic claims: that belief in an intrinsic relationship between words and things is linked in American poetry to utopian social projects; and that poets with a deep understanding of how language operates are nonetheless attracted to this belief—despite recognizing its fantastic elements—because it allows them to articulate a social mandate for poetry.

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This book takes up the utopian desire for a perfect language of words giving direct expression to the real, known in Western thought as Cratylism, and its impact on the social visions and poetic projects of three of the most intellectually ambitious of American writers: Walt Whitman, Laura (Riding) Jackson, and Charles Olson. A coda lo...

Carla Billitteri is an Associate Professor at the University of Maine where she teaches poetry and poetics, and critical theory. Her scholarly work on modernist and contemporary American poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Aerial, Arizona Quarterly, Gravesiana, The Journal of Modern Literature, Paideuma, and Textual Practice. She...

other books by Carla Billitteri

The New American Poetry: Fifty Years Later
The New American Poetry: Fifty Years Later

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 8.67 × 5.7 × 0.72 inPublished:March 15, 2009Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230608361

ISBN - 13:9780230608368

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Table of Contents

The True Forms of Things: Cratylism and American Poetry * Substantial Words: Walt Whitman and the Power of Names * The Linguistic Ultimate: Laura (Riding) Jackson and the Language of Truth * A State Destroys a Noun: Charles Olson and Objectism * Coda: Language Poetry and Neo-Cratylism   

Editorial Reviews

“Carla Billitteri’s work expresses an abiding concern for what Laura (Riding) Jackson called ‘truth telling.’ In this book, Billitteri brings to modern poetics an interest in reviving poetry’s claims to authenticity, accuracy, truth–those old fashioned topics that are presumably among the grand narratives that postmodernism has successfully jettisoned. She comes to these issues with a formidable knowledge of western philosophy and language theory combined with a capacious understanding of modernist poetics, always testing claims for art’s productive power against its relationship to the social and political.”--Michael Davidson, University of California, San Diego“Poetry has never been able to shake the nagging thought that maybe Cratylus was right after all: meaning resides in the material imminence of language. With lucidity, craft and perceptive distillation, Billitteri reads that skeptical legacy into the transcendentalist language of American literature and the modes of linguistic social utopias it has imagined again and again. Here we have an account of ‘true poetry,’ in the Emersonian sense: ‘not so much the language of things as the language of the ideas that things allow us to think.’ This is an immensely important topic; scholars and poets alike owe Billitteri thanks for taking it on.”--Craig Dworkin, Professor of English, The University of Utah"Focusing on three major poets, each of whom represent particular, large, and different problems for the reader and critic, Billitteri moves gracefully through American poetry since the mid-nineteenth century to the present, with one hand confidently on literary theory and the other on cultural history. The book is a serious contribution to the knowledge base and will enter a group of a perhaps a dozen books that define the central core of the American poetic tradition."--Don Byrd, Department of English, State University of New York at Albany