“It Must Change”

Srikanth Reddy

in Changing Subjects

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199791026
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950287 | DOI:
“It Must Change”

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This chapter examines the place of digression in Modernist debates surrounding the theory of aesthetics in relation to American political culture. Wallace Stevens adopts digression as a governing trope of the ars poetica in order to undo the politically “purposeful” genres of polemic and manifesto which dominate aesthetic theory in the Modernist period. In this poem, Stevens frames theoretical ratiocination within a digressive logic “in which there seems / To be an evasion, a thing not apprehended or / Not apprehended well.” The question of evasion, raised within Stevens’ lifetime through the poet’s dispute with the Marxist critic Stanley Burnshaw, marks an encounter between aestheticism and the politics of purpose in American intellectual culture of the period. At once raising and deconstructing the idea of purpose, the digressive ars poetica serves as the stage upon which Stevens mobilizes Kant’s aesthetic theory to underwrite poetic form in the Modernist lyric.

Keywords: Wallace Stevens; Immanuel Kant; Stanley Burnshaw; Modernism; manifestos; Ars Poetica

Chapter.  11797 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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