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The Assault on Symbolism

Robert G. Cohn
Comparative Literature Studies
Vol. 5, No. 1 (Mar., 1968), pp. 69-75
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40467729
Page Count: 7
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The Assault on Symbolism
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Abstract

Yvor Winters' assessment of Mallanné's aesthetics is examined and refuted. Winters, on the basis of a single sentence, exaggerates the degree to which Mallarmé is willing to use words for their emotional and imaginative power at the expense of their intellectual and rational power. Winters' viewpoint is actually more applicable to other so-called Symbolist poets. Reality, which literature seeks to portray, is logical discourse, but it is and must be more than that because the experiences of reality cannot necessarily be easily expressed in a rational manner, and furthermore, words in their various contexts possess at least a certain degree of imaginative connotation. Most of Mallarmé's work avoids excessive obscurantism simply because the poet "insists on logical reasoning as well as the vast aura of imagination, fused."

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