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By Mark Noble

In American Poetic Materialism from Whitman to Stevens, Mark Noble examines writers who proportion the idea that personhood might 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 in regards to 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 event and its actual floor move between severe theorists and philosophers of technological know-how, American Poetic Materialism explores poets who've lengthy requested what our materiality can let us know approximately our customers for brand spanking new types of our fabric selves.

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

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Allegiance to such a tension, rather than to the conceptual achievements that would relieve it, here resembles the only viable method for describing the mechanics of our relationship to the objective world. If Adorno is correct that the uneasy convergence of materialism and idealism noticed by James is an unavoidable consequence of our sensation of intimacy with the physical world, then our only option is to resist believing in that sensation while continuing to describe its logic. This is a tricky proposition: it requires we examine something that eludes our grasp even as we acknowledge that same thing generates our chance to grasp anything at all.

James claims to observe divergent impulses rather than these sorts of figurative tensions, but he nevertheless signals the inevitable coincidence of those impulses as he accumulates tropes for our philosophical allegiances. In a particularly extravagant passage, for instance, he strings together a series of images for the abstract sensation of “fluency,” but these are rendered in explicitly materialist terms: Who does not feel the charm of thinking that the moon and the apple are, as far as their relation to the earth goes, identical; of knowing respiration and combustion to be one; of understanding that the balloon rises by the same law whereby the stone sinks; of feeling that the warmth in one’s palm when one rubs one’s sleeve is identical with the motion which the friction checks; of recognizing the difference between beast and fish to be only a higher degree of that between human father and son; of believing our strength when we climb the mountain or fell the tree to be no other than the strength of the sun’s rays which made the corn grow out of which we got our morning meal?

Once again, describing sensations of connectedness means also describing a material foundation that makes no promise to privilege that connection. This curious link between intimacy and alterity suggests that attempts to locate a ground for the sensitive subject ineluctably run the risk of discovering an unstable ground capable of dissolving both sensations and subjects. Where James’s prose seems to recast his account of philosophic divergence as a kind of convergence, the agonistic relationship between idealism and materialism begins to look more like an aporetic relationship.

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