Wallace Stevens: Images and Judgments

By John J. Enck | Go to book overview
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The ancient symbols will be nothing then.
We shall have gone behind the symbols
To that which they symbolized.


The social man then, lives in a world of symbols, and though he presses other things into his service, such, for instance, as kings, footmen, dogs, women, he finds in art his richest reservoir of symbolic currency. But in 2 world of symbolists the creative artist and the creative man of science appear in strange isolation as the only people who are not symbolists. They alone are up against certain relations which do not stand for something else, but appear to have ultimate value, to be real.


A TRULY METAPHYSICAL HISTORY of aesthetics staggers the mind. Taine's temporal triumvirate, race, moment, and milieu, reign over chronologies of the arts and enforce their Procrustean whims. To propose a survey treating masterpieces as finite entities which in a transcendent body manifest and obey their own laws, bearing the same repeated configurations and relationships to man's actions as, for an astrologer, the patterns of stars and planets do sounds eccentric. Such a process might, nevertheless, formulate concepts basic for appreciating certain artists, such as Stevens. In composing Harmonium he self-consciously liberated himself from the social symbols which Roger Fry describes, and, consequently, scorned mere realism as a corruption of any true reality. Granted that his poems use


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Wallace Stevens: Images and Judgments


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