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Things Merely Are: Philosophy in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens

Things Merely Are: Philosophy in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens [Kindle Edition]

Simon Critchley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


'Testimony to a remarkable engagement between a philosopher and a poet ... it is written both with a beautiful, poised lucidity and calm, candid passion.' - "Steven Connor, Birkbeck College, London" 'What emerges is a refreshed appreciation of Steven's philosophical interest and so of how philosophy and literature can interact. The writing is characteristically engaging and stimulating, clear and succinct.' - "Sebastian Gardner, University College London" 'Critchley writes with brilliant wit, clarity, penetration, and a disarming modesty ... altogether it is a terrific book.' - "J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine"

Product Description

This book is an invitation to read poetry. Simon Critchley argues that poetry enlarges life with a range of observation, power of expression and attention to language that eclipses any other medium. In a rich engagement with the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Critchley reveals that poetry also contains deep and important philosophical insight. Above all, he agues for a 'poetic epistemology' that enables us to think afresh the philosophical problem of the relation between mind and world, and ultimately to cast the problem away.

Drawing astutely on Kant, the German and English Romantics and Heidegger, Critchley argues that through its descriptions of particular things and their stubborn plainness - whether water, guitars, trees, or cats - poetry evokes the 'mereness' of things. It is this experience, he shows, that provokes the mood of calm and releases the imaginative insight we need to press back against the pressure of reality. Critchley also argues that this calm defines the cinematic eye of Terrence Malick, whose work is discussed at the end of the book.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 164 KB
  • Print Length: 152 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0415356318
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge (18 Feb 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000OT7UDW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #279,948 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The blood that courses through the poetry. 10 July 2010
An epistemologist, an ontologist and a phenomenologist walked into this bar, (Blimey it hurt!). No seriously, they walk in to this bar and talk about Wallace Steven's poetry and representations of reality. Fifteen pints later this is the outline of their conversation overheard by the very talented Simon Critchley. Not one for just before bed!
Starting poems for Stevens? Try 'The Emperor of Ice Cream'/ The Idea of Order at Key West/The Snow Man. It's good stuff, press-ups for the mind and a tonic for the soul!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someone Grew An Epistemology/Pineapple Artichoke! 4 April 2007
By R. A. Weil - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The rationale for this Amazon review stems from the fact that Amazon recommended "Things Merely Are" by Simon Critchley and I bit. But it turned out that this short volume is well-written, even lucid,[his choice of audience extends beyond the academy]and focuses on the inverse relationship of imagination and reality as found in "The Snowman":"Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." Critchley has a strong reading of Stevens and develops a theory of how poetry works which has a clarity unknown to H Bloom in "The Poems of Our Climate." "Things Merely Are" is a from my perspective a welcome addition to the conversation about Stevens and is of the quality produced by Helen Vendler.
5.0 out of 5 stars The closest thing to a skeleton key to Wallace Stevens 31 Mar 2014
By Otto Wood - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I’ve read Stevens’ letters. I’ve read “The Necessary Angel.” I’ve read Vendler and tried to read Bloom. I’ve even attempted to plow through Richardson. And, of course, I’ve read the poems—over and over and over for forty years. This book comes the closest to describing exactly what’s going on in Stevens’ mind. Critchley’s analysis brings everything into focus for me. I knew he was on the right track after reading his first chapter, which is nothing less than a crib sheet of Stevens’ brain. Furthermore, it’s full of penetrating questions such as this: “What is it about the particular meditative poetic form that [Stevens] developed that is able to carry genuine philosophical weight and yet which is impossible to translate into prose?” Critchley devotes much of the book to solving this puzzle.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It tells me what it isn't. 11 Aug 2013
By stephen - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's a good book, but short : the first 90 pages are about Stevens but the remaining 20, the films of Terrence Malick are discussed.
(Keats or Shelley would have said that I had paid for a pamphlet only ... at nearly 30 bucks, Byron would have laughed)

But it's useful because some points are made which Helen Vendler does not make even in her Introduction to her 'Extended Wings' book. (You'd think that she'd have covered everything, there, wouldn't you ... even when she says in her shorter tome 'Words Chosen Out Of Desire' that Stevens's titles do not have any semantic relation to a poem's actual content. (Well, glory be !)
(Actually, I have only read recently, that WS thought that he did title his poems semantically true to the content.)

Critchley uses general words, like 'anti-realism' : Stevens's philosophical position cannot be 'assimilated to ...' he says ; he thinks, too, that Romanticisms are a fallback to failures, (my words) that R. is the folly of private sexual intimidations, (my words, again, but I reckon C. means as much, though he does mention 'anxious atheisms' too)
His book is best read in collaboration with the best - as all books on Stevens must, I reckon : Vendler, as mentioned, plus Longenbach's Historicist version (that is, if you want politics posing as analysis - but the book's still not a bad one) and perhaps Frank Kermode as an introduction, but I like George Lensing's, 'A Poet's Growth'. It's clear and distinct ... and it tells me why Robert Frost is, really, as good a poet.
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Reality retreats before the imagination that shapes and orders it. Poetry is therefore the experience of failure. &quote;
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What is romanticism? can arguably be reduced to the belief that art is the supreme medium for attaining the fundamental ground of life and that the problems of the modern world can be addressed and even reconciled in the production of a critically self-conscious artwork. &quote;
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things are what they are through an act of the mind, what he calls the imagination. &quote;
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