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Wallace Stevens: Poetry, Philosophy, and Figurative Language

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Edited By Kacper Bartczak and Jakub Mácha

This book is devoted to investigating the relationships and correspondences that hold between the poetry of Wallace Stevens and philosophy. Stevens used the aesthetically enhanced language of his poems to create inquiries into the nature of reality that parallel those conducted by philosophers. He also maintained poetry’s independence from philosophy. The first part of the book contains contributions that pursue various aspects of these parallels. Here, the authors explore the relations between Stevens’ poems and specific philosophical concepts or the thought of individual philosophers. The contributions in the second part narrow down the scope to the issues within the philosophy of language. This section concentrates on the role of metaphor and figurativeness in Stevens’ poetry.

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Reality Is Not a Solid. Poetic Transfigurations of Stevens’ Fluid Concept of Reality

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Jakub Mácha

A poet ought not to pick nature’s pocket: let him borrow, and so borrow as to repay by the very act of borrowing.

S. T. Coleridge

Abstract: The main aim of this essay is to show that, for Stevens, the concept of reality is very fluctuating. The essay begins with addressing the relationship between poetry and philosophy. I argue, contra Critchley, that Stevens’ poetic work can elucidate, or at least help us to understand better, the ideas of philosophers that are usually considered obscure. The main “obscure” philosophical work introduced in and discussed throughout the essay is Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism. Both a (shellingian) philosopher and a (stevensian) poet search for reality. In order to understand Stevens’ poetry better, I distingush several concepts of reality: initial reality (the external world of the common sense), imagined reality (a fiction, a product of one’s mind), final reality (the object of a philosopher’s and a poet’s search) and total reality (the sum of all realities, Being). These determinations are fixed by reason (in the present essay), whereas in Stevens’ poetic works, they are made fluid by the imagination. This fluidity leads the concept of reality from its initial stage through the imagined stage to its final stage. Throughout this process, imagined reality must be distinguished from both a mere fancy and its products. Final reality is, however, nothing transcendent. It is rather a general transpersonal order of reality created by poetry/the imagination. The...

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