The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's

By Josephine Miles | Go to book overview

II. BACKGROUNDS IN PROSE: PRACTICE AND THEORY

IN THE prose reports, stories, essays of the period the materials of mind, time, substance persist. I point them out here and there as possibly representative, not in form or frequency, but in simple parallel to poetic concern. Bertrand Russell, at the end of his History of Western Philosophy, says that the questions of our day are questions about number, space, time, mind, matter; and these are the characteristic materials of prose as of poetry. What is fact and how is it interpreted by mind?


1

The novel is devoted to extremely accurate reporting and, at the same time, to interpretation either intently implied or painstakingly ruminated. The much-read stories of the 1940's, the titles of which I have drawn from the selective lists of the American Library Associa- tion, represent types both subtle and simple. Faulkner Intruder in the Dust, Koestler Darkness at Noon, Bowen The Heat of the Day, Greene The Heart of the Matter, Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls, Llewellyn How Green Was My Valley, Marquand H. M. Pulham, Esq., Hersey A Bell for Adano and Brown A Walk in the Sun, Lewis' Kingsblood Royal, Porter The Leaning Tower, Guthrie The Big Sky, Lockridge Raintree County, Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Lillian Smith Strange Fruit, Mailer The Naked and the Dead, Steinbeck Cannery Row, Stewart Storm and Fire, Waugh Brideshead Revisited, Welty Delta Wedding, Warren's All the King's Men-these and others suggest certain main types of storytelling. There is the big book of men's struggle for action and for value; there is the small book of intent psychological warfare; there is the middle-range book of ordered or disordered social texture.

Most of these share a major trait, their sense of precision in reported detail. I say "sense," because the effect seems conscious, an effort at defining, a desire to note not just accurate data but accuracy itself. Hemingway works at this numbly, Welty lyrically, Lewis ponder-

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The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1640''s *
  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • I. the Poetry of the 1540''s and the 1640''s 1
  • II- Twenty Poets of the 1640''s 46
  • Iii. Materials and Attitudes in Prose 103
  • Iv. Critical Attitudes and Descriptive Conclusions 125
  • Bibliography 155
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1740''s AND 1840''s *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENT *
  • I. Poetry of the 1740''s 161
  • Ii. Grounds of Prose in the 1740''s 223
  • Iii. Poetry of the 1840''s 258
  • Iv. Grounds of Prose in the 1840''s 322
  • V. Classic and Romantic 348
  • Bibliography 373
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1940''s *
  • Title Page *
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENT *
  • Contents *
  • I. Poetry of the 1940''s 383
  • Ii. Backgrounds in Prose- Practice and Theory 459
  • Iii. Comparisons and Conclusions 497
  • THE CONTINUITY OF ENGLISH POETIC LANGUAGE 517
  • Bibliography 537
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