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ALL THEIR SENSES WAKING: THE EARLY POLITICS AND POETICS OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS
A biographical study of William Carlos Williams' development into a liberal democrat and a revolutionary poet. Using unpublished and newly discovered material, Williams' early politics, aesthetics, and conception of the artist's function in society are situated in the contexts which shaped them between 1883 and 1923: suburban Rutherford, New Jersey and bohemian New York. Both are detailed in light of the great changes American society underwent then, for Williams' confrontation with "modernity"--the transformation of America into an urban, centralized economy and government and a mass culture--generated his politics of "local government," his poetics of "contact," and his ambiguous conception of the artist as the paradigm of the free self, who must break free of society if he is to serve it. Seeing modernity turn immediate experience into mere "information," Williams grounded both his politics and poetics in nostalgia for the qualities of experience associated with small-community life. Even more threatening was the spread of government, business, and society into formerly local and private realms, for it threatened the conception of the autonomous individual so deeply rooted in him by both Rutherford and Greenwich Village. This study concludes that Williams' defense of autonomy and immediacy was founded even more on the supreme value he gave to art and the artist as on his individualist politics. Ironically, he was devoted to making art the quality of its experience the very basis of community, and yet the terms of his discourse about art's experience led him to despair at the possiblity of defeating modernity's. His early poetry is often caught between his intention to serve his community and its refusal to listen seriously, and between his demand that modernity make place for him and his need to retreat from it in order to preserve the immediacy of his art and his own momentary freedom. But although his individualism undercut his attempts to make poetry a social force, through his formal innovations he, more than any other American modernist, offers the means of making art "intrinsic" to life.
FRAIL, DAVID CHARLES, "ALL THEIR SENSES WAKING: THE EARLY POLITICS AND POETICS OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS" (1985). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8509545.