Bergson, Eliot, and American Literature by Paul Douglass

By Paul Douglass

Earlier, Bergson's greatly stated impression on American literature hasn't ever been comprehensively mapped. writer Paul Douglass explains and evaluates Bergson's that means for American writers, starting with Eliot and relocating via Ransom, Penn Warren, and Tate to Faulkner, Wallace Stevens, Henry Miller, William Carlos Williams, and others. it is going to be a customary element of reference.

Bergson was once the continental thinker of the early 1900s, a star, as Sartre may later be. Profoundly influential all through Europe, and extensively mentioned in England and the US within the teenagers, Twenties, and Thirties, Bergson is now hardly learn. His present "obsolescence," Douglass argues, illuminates the Western shift from smooth to publish- Modern.

Ambitious in scope, this publication is still admirably with reference to Bergson himself: what he stated, the place that matches within the ancient context of philosophy, why his principles moved around the Atlantic, and the way he affected American writers. on the book's center are readings of Eliot's feedback and poetry, analyses of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Light in August, and reviews of Ransom's, Tate's and Penn Warren's criticism.

This impressively researched and wonderfully written research will stay of lasting price to scholars of yankee literature.

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It must seem random, novel, incomplete . . For it is a developing whole. But it will not resolve its many tensions. They are the upoint:' Through that tech.. Intuition b' M odemist Aesthetics 41 nique, it may end in evoking for us something-we usually call it emotion, but it is an amalgam of feeling and thought. Eliot's Uobjective correlative" is rooted in a Bergsonian aesthetic. It proposes a "chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion" poetry evokes (SE, 124). Faulkner, too, spoke of aesthetics as a science, like chemistr~ with certain scientific rules which, when properly applied, will produce great art as surely as certain chemical elements combined in the proper proportions will produce certain reactions:'27 Pound also spoke of poetry as a usort of inspired mathematics, which gives us equations not for abstract figures, triangles, spheres, and the like, but equations of human emotions:'28 This desire to compete with science, to turn the pow" ers of intelligence on unexplored psychic territor~ is profoundly Bergsonian, and its strong presence in the work of trendsetters like Pound and Eliot (and later Faulkner) changes our view of the se" quence by which certain literary techniques were developed and promulgated among American writers.

Guished this concern of the artist carefully from that of the scien.. tist-implying thereby that art shares something with science. Art, he wrote, is not unlike a river "perturbed at times by the quality of the riverbed, [but] in a way independent of that bed.... Stationary objects are reflected, but the quality of motion is of the river. The scientist is concerned with all these things, the artist with that which flows:' Of course, Pound knew that traditional science was not unconcerned with what Hflows:' and that the artist hoping to evoke the river had better know a great deal about the reflections on the surface.

Here is the Imagist aesthetic passed on by Hulme, who acted as both translator and promoter of the book in which it appeared. It helps explain both Pound's revisions of The \V&ste Land, where he ruthlessly pared away context and elaboration, and his own strategies of ~~indirec" tion" in the Cantos. It also helps us understand William Carlos Williams's heterodox structures in Paterson (as it finally evolved). There, Williams gives us the formula ~~No ideas but in things" (book 1). Yes, Uthingness" is a trap in aesthetic discussion; it is static; it freezes.

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