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William Carlos Williams and the Politics of Form

Carla Billitteri
Journal of Modern Literature
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Winter, 2007), pp. 42-63
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4619327
Page Count: 22
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William Carlos Williams and the Politics of Form
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Abstract

This essay examines the politics and poetics of William Carlos Williams as developed in his critical prose of the 1930s and 1940s, especially those works written in response to mounting political pressures at home and abroad. Using parallel and contemporary writings by Walter Benjamin as a guide, the essay shows that Williams in this period reconciles his romantic and modernist commitments-his belief, on the one hand, in the artist's supremacy, and his fascination, on the other hand, with technology and mechanization-so as to produce an account of art's function that links "rigor of beauty" to emerging forms of social control. The culmination of the political-poetic project is Williams's long poem Paterson, which enacts formally and takes up thematically the artist's attempt to impose order on chaotic reality.

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