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Palgrave Macmillan

Pastoral, Pragmatism, and Twentieth-Century American Poetry

ISBN 9780230320130
Publication Date February 2011
Formats Ebook (EPUB) Hardcover Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics

Pastoral, Pragmatism, and Twentieth-Century American Poetry argues that pastoral has remained a significant mode in modern American poetry, often as a means of talking about who the ideal self or poet should be and how the poet fits into the larger national community. Influenced by the work of William James and John Dewey, Ann Mikkelsen deftly argues that the "pragmatic pastoral" mode depicts a transitory, evolving, experimental state of being rather than a static, ironic, or nostalgic worldview. By re-evaluating relationships between the poet and the people, the poem and life experience, this book demonstrates that these pastorals reflect the ethical dilemmas of a society in flux.

Ann Mikkelsen is an Assistant Professor of English at Florida State University.

Introduction * Pastoral Ideology and the Pragmatic Response * Tramp Culture and the Cult of Pan: Robert Frost's Pastoral of Class Mobility * "The Truth About Us": Pastoral, Pragmatism, and William Carlos Williams's Paterson * "Fat!  Fat!  Fat!  Fat!":  Wallace Stevens's Figurations of Masculinity * "The Mooring of Starting Out": John Ashbery's Pastoral Origins * American Pastoral Futures

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"Inspired by the idea of reading the work of Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, John Ashbery, and Gertrude Stein through a lens borrowed from their philosophic contemporaries, the founders of pragmatism William James and John Dewey, Mikkelsen greatly heightens our appreciation of the intellectual power and significance of America's esteemed twentieth-century pastoral poetry." - Leo Marx, Professor Emeritus of American Cultural History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology"Finding the pastoral in the 'frontier rhetoric' of American social science and literature and interpreting pragmatism as a 'pioneering philosophy,' Mikkelsen traces crucial and heretofore unexplored intersections between pastoral and pragmatist aesthetic and ethical ideas . . . Combining deft intellectual-historical overviews with rich analysis of important texts, Mikkelsen grounds, defines, and suggests the significance of a pragmatic pastoral poetics and offers some of the most absorbing discussions of Frost, Williams, and Stevens I have recently read." - Michael Thurston, Professor of English and Director of American Studies Program, Smith College "Mikkelsen has put the politics back in American pastoral, and has extended the purview of the pastoral project to critical twentieth-century themes . . . Mikkelsen reminds us that American pastoral's core function is not escape or nostalgia but interrogation of cultural norms and modeling of new modes of being in the world and in community. Reading a diverse group of poets from Frost to Susan Howe, Mikkelsen provides, through her analysis of pastoral, a new understanding of the continuity of American poetry." - Bonnie Costello, author of Shifting Ground: Reinventing Landscape in Modern American Poetry and Planets on Tables: Poetry, Still Life, and the Turning World
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