Catalogue


A poetry of presence : the writing of William Carlos Williams /
Bernard Duffey.
imprint
Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.
description
xiii, 231 p. ; 23 cm. --
ISBN
0299104702 :
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.
isbn
0299104702 :
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
1236941
 
Bibliography: p. xi-xiii.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1986-07:
Those who appreciated Duffey's Poetry in America: Expression and Its Values in the Times of Bryant, Whitman, and Pound (CH, Sep '78) will not be surprised at the excellence of this latest book, which may indeed deserve the dust-jacket assertion that it is ``the first truly comprehensive examination of a major American author and his kinetic art.'' A professor at Duke University, this critic treats both the poetry and the prose, considering them a web of ``re-making''; he uses Kenneth Burke's pentad of act, scene, agent, agency, purpose (A Grammar of Motives, 1945) to show how each of the five affects the others. At first, the approach seem unnecessarily erudite, but this impression wears off: Duffey's original thought requires the precision of vocabulary and the syntax that he chooses. He parallels Williams's ``invention'' with Pound's ``make it new,'' linking the two also as obliged to ``create much of the milieu within which their efforts might be seen as writing.'' In contrast to Frost and Sandburg, Williams apprehends his locality as fragmentary rather than as landscape with a collective character. Of the eight chapters, the fourth-on Paterson and Pictures from Brueghel-is especially insightful, though all are good. The title is derived from the statement, ``If there really are no ideas but in things and things can only be present, then presence is the only source of ideas.'' Duffey's admiration for his subject is unquestioned but it is based on sound scholarship. For graduate students and upper-division undergraduates.-B. Quinn, formerly St. Andrews Presbyterian College
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, July 1986
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Summaries
Main Description
William Carlos Williams was an inventive writer never confined by any static genre or aesthetic postulate. In this authoritative study, Bernard Duffey recognizes that literary dynamism as he approaches the full breadth of Williams's work-including his poetry, prose, fiction, and drama-as an interrelated and interdependent web of writing. The result, the first truly comprehensive examination of a major American author and his kinetic art, will interest students and scholars of Williams, American literature, and modern poetry and criticism. Central to Duffey's study is a critical framework based on Kenneth Burke's A Grammar of Motives and the perception of the poet as an agent working in relation to a "scene" and its content-in this case, the geographical and cultural locale that Williams clung to. Williams's work, Duffey argues, was informed by the dramatic sense of himself as a literary actor seeking embodiment of a dynamic, altering whole and his present condition of being. Ultimately, he stresses, the writer was more engaged in expressing literary action than in forging literary objects. Duffey amplifies this critical view through a close reading of specific works. Examining Williams's principal writings in the lights that seem most immediate to them, he tackles a variety of themes: the pervasiveness of scene in In the American Grain and the fiction; the role of agent or poetic person in Kora in Hell, A Voyage to Pagany, Paterson , and Pictures from Brueghel; the function of poetic agency in the short poems, and of poetic action in Williams's drama.
Main Description
William Carlos Williams was an inventive writer never confined by any static genre or aesthetic postulate. In this authoritative study, Bernard Duffey recognizes that literary dynamism as he approaches the full breadth of Williams's work--including his poetry, prose, fiction, and drama--as an interrelated and interdependent web of writing. The result, the first truly comprehensive examination of a major American author and his kinetic art, will interest students and scholars of Williams, American literature, and modern poetry and criticism. Central to Duffey's study is a critical framework based on Kenneth Burke's A Grammar of Motives and the perception of the poet as an agent working in relation to a "scene" and its content--in this case, the geographical and cultural locale that Williams clung to. Williams's work, Duffey argues, was informed by the dramatic sense of himself as a literary actor seeking embodiment of a dynamic, altering whole and his present condition of being. Ultimately, he stresses, the writer was more engaged in expressing literary action than in forging literary objects. Duffey amplifies this critical view through a close reading of specific works. Examining Williams's principal writings in the lights that seem most immediate to them, he tackles a variety of themes: the pervasiveness of scene in In the American Grain and the fiction; the role of agent or poetic person in Kora in Hell, A Voyage to Pagany, Paterson , and Pictures from Brueghel; the function of poetic agency in the short poems, and of poetic action in Williams's drama.

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