Thoughts on Value as a (Contingent) Social Construct

Currently reading Barbara Hernstein Smith’s Contingencies of Value (1988, Harvard UP) and thinking a lot about how value (literary, aesthetic, moral, or otherwise) could operate as a contingent yet rigorous system of interrelated evaluative decisions. Echoing Chaim Perelman’s notion that ‘knowledge’ is determined via a network of socially agreed-upon standards and rules (cf. Wittgenstein’s “language … Continue reading Thoughts on Value as a (Contingent) Social Construct

The Utilitarian Language of E.E. Cummings

Student: “But what does this Cummings poem even MEAN?” Teacher: “Uhh…” Though the student’s question is flawed from the outset—to ask what an E.E. Cummings poem “means” is to miss the point entirely—it remains a common concern for readers approaching these poems for the first time. And if we are to, as Richard Kostelanetz argues … Continue reading The Utilitarian Language of E.E. Cummings

Pound, Nietzsche, and the “Will to Power”

Though Ezra Pound said of Frederick Nietzsche’s “will to power” that “[n]othing more vulgar, in the worst sense of the word, has ever been sprung on a dallying intelligentsia” (Feng Lan, Ezra Pound and Confucianism 119), the true relationship between Nietzsche’s theory and Pound’s own “will toward order” belies the poet’s loud protestations. Pound desired … Continue reading Pound, Nietzsche, and the “Will to Power”

The Dialectical Objectivist: Louis Zukofsky’s “Mantis” Poems

In Revolution of the Word, Jerome Rothenberg introduces Louis Zukofsky’s Objectivist poetics by stating that it entails “[n]ot a polarization into object/subject but a dialectic” (239). Unfortunately, Rothenberg offers no further commentary regarding this conception of “dialectic,” and his nebulous use of the term fails to say much about how readers should approach works like … Continue reading The Dialectical Objectivist: Louis Zukofsky’s “Mantis” Poems