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Restless SecularismModernism and the Religious Inheritance$
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Matthew Mutter

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300221732

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300221732.001.0001

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“The World was Paradise Malformed”: Poetic Language, Anthropomorphism, and Secularism in Wallace Stevens

“The World was Paradise Malformed”: Poetic Language, Anthropomorphism, and Secularism in Wallace Stevens

Chapter:
(p.30) 1 “The World was Paradise Malformed”: Poetic Language, Anthropomorphism, and Secularism in Wallace Stevens
Source:
Restless Secularism
Author(s):

Matthew Mutter

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300221732.003.0002

That Stevens’s poetry repeatedly returns to the death of God as a condition of existential vertigo is a scholarly commonplace, but this chapter argues that for Stevens, language itself harbors a dangerous bias toward transcendence. Stevens is mistrustful of the way metaphor slides into metaphysics, the way an analogical worldview becomes a theological one, and the ways in which signs and symbols tend to refer solid, immanent things to supersensible narratives or “meanings.” In the face of this danger, he develops a poetics of tautology meant to divest language of such bias. Yet later in his career, this chapter contends, he returns to analogy as a mode of transcendence-in-immanence, and establishes a concept of “description without place” in which imagined goods, which have no immanent existence, correspond to details of a particular scene. Stevens is, in other words, working out a version of Nietzsche’s famous claim that we are not rid of God until we are rid of grammar while simultaneously harnessing the religious possibilities of language.

Keywords:   Anthropomorphism, Poetics, Analogy, Tautology, Transcendence, Immanence, Secularism, Death of God

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