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American Literature and the Destruction of Knowledge
Innovative Writing in the Age of Epistemology
Ronald E. Martin
Duke University Press, 1991
In this challenging work, Ronald E. Martin analyzes the impulse of major nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers to undermine not only their inherited paradigms of literary and linguistic thought but to question how paradigms themselves are constructed. Through analyses of these writers, as well as contemporaneous scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and visual artists, American Literature and the Destruction of Knowledge creates a panoramic view of American literature over the past 150 years and shows it to be a crucial part of the great philosophical changes of the period.
The works of Melville, Emerson, Whitman, and Dickinson, followed by Crane, Frost, Pound, Stein, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Aiken, Stevens, and Williams, are examined as part of a cultural current that casts doubt on the possibility of knowledge itself. The destruction of concepts, of literary and linguistic forms, was for these writers a precondition for liberating the imagination to gain more access to the self and the real world. As part of the exploration of this cultural context, literary and philosophical realisms are examined together, allowing a comparison of their somewhat different objectives, as well as their common epistemological predicament.

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Being Here Is Glorious
On Rilke, Poetry, and Philosophy
James D. Reid
Northwestern University Press, 2015

With a new translation of the Duino Elegies

“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’/orders?” Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies opens with one of the most powerful poetic expressions of the search for meaning in the modern world. Published in 1923, the Elegies would influence important philosophers on the Continent, including Heidegger. But with a few exceptions, Rilke’s poetry has not had an impact on philosophy in the Anglo-American world. In Being Here Is Glorious, James D. Reid offers a fresh translation of the Elegies, which hews to the form of the original and provides his own meditation on the place of poetry in philosophy. Reid makes a convincing case that poetry and philosophy can address the problem of finding things significant and worth affirming in light of various reasons to doubt the value of the world in which we find ourselves cast.


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Dreaming of Justice, Waking to Wisdom
Rousseau's Philosophic Life
Laurence D. Cooper
University of Chicago Press, 2023
A surprising look at how Rousseau defended the philosophic life as the most natural and best of lives.
Dreaming of Justice, Waking to Wisdom reveals what could be thought of as the capstone of Rousseau’s thought, even if that capstone has been nearly invisible to readers. Despite criticizing philosophy for its corrosive effects on both natural goodness and civic virtue, Rousseau, argues Laurence D. Cooper, held the philosophic life as an ideal. Cooper expertly unpacks Rousseau’s vivid depiction of the philosophic life and the case for that life as the most natural, the freest, or, in short, the best or most choice-worthy of lives. Cooper focuses especially on a single feature, arguably the defining feature of the philosophic life: the overcoming of the ordinary moral consciousness in favor of the cognitivist view of morality. Cooper shows that Rousseau, with his particular understanding and embrace of the philosophic life, proves to be a kind of latter-day Socratic. Thorough and thought-provoking, Dreaming of Justice, Waking to Wisdom provides vital insight into Rousseau.

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Early Stevens
The Nietzschean Intertext
B. J. Leggett
Duke University Press, 1992
In recent years Nietzsche has emerged as a presiding genius of our intellectual epoch. Although scholars have noted the influence of Nietzsche's thought on Wallace Stevens, the publication of Early Stevens establishes, for the first time, the extent to which Nietzsche pervades Steven's early work.
Concentrating on poems published between 1915 and 1935—but moving occasionally into later poems, as well as letters and essays—B. J. Leggett draws together texts of Stevens and Nietzsche to produce new and surprising readings of the poet's early work. This intertextual critique reveals previously undisclosed ideologies operating at the margins of Stevens's work, enabling Leggett to read aspects of the poetry that have until now been unreadable. Leggett's analysis demonstrates that the Nietzschean presence in Stevens brings with it certain assumptions that need to be made explicit if the form of the poetry is to be understood.
Though many critics have discussed the concept of intertextuality, few have attempted a truly intertextual reading of a particular poet. Early Stevens not only develops an exemplary model of such a reading; it also provides crucial insights into Stevens's notions of femininity, virility, and poetry and elucidates the notions of art, untruth, fiction, and interpretation in both Stevens and Nietzsche.

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Ecology without Nature
Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics
Timothy Morton
Harvard University Press, 2009

In Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the image of nature itself. Ecological writers propose a new worldview, but their very zeal to preserve the natural world leads them away from the "nature" they revere. The problem is a symptom of the ecological catastrophe in which we are living. Morton sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all.

Ecology without Nature investigates our ecological assumptions in a way that is provocative and deeply engaging. Ranging widely in eighteenth-century through contemporary philosophy, culture, and history, he explores the value of art in imagining environmental projects for the future. Morton develops a fresh vocabulary for reading "environmentality" in artistic form as well as content, and traces the contexts of ecological constructs through the history of capitalism. From John Clare to John Cage, from Kierkegaard to Kristeva, from The Lord of the Rings to electronic life forms, Ecology without Nature widens our view of ecological criticism, and deepens our understanding of ecology itself. Instead of trying to use an idea of nature to heal what society has damaged, Morton sets out a radical new form of ecological criticism: "dark ecology."


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Fictions of Consciousness
Mill, Newman, and the Reading of Victorian Prose
Loesberg, Jonathan
Rutgers University Press, 1986
Mill, Newman, and the Reading of Victorian Prose

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The Grand Continuum
Reflections on Joyce and Metaphysics
David A. White
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983

The assumptions that literary criticism and philosophy are closely linked—and that both disciplines can learn much from each other—lead David White to examine key passages in James Joyce’s novels both as a philosopher and as literary critic.  In so doing, he develops a thesis that Joyce’s attempt to capture the mysterious process whereby perception and consciousness are translated into language entails a fundamental challenge to everyday notions of reality. Joyce’s stylistic brilliance and virtuosity, his destruction of normal syntax and meaning, “shock one into a new reality.” In the book’s final section, White examines the subtle relation between literary language and human consciousness and traces parallels between Joyce’s stylistic experimentation and Wittgenstein’s and Husserl’s ideas about language.


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I Think I Am
Philip K. Dick
Laurence A. Rickels
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
For years, noted writer Laurence A. Rickels often found himself compared to novelist Philip K. Dick—though in fact Rickels had never read any of the science fiction writer’s work. When he finally read his first Philip K. Dick novel, while researching for his recent book The Devil Notebooks, it prompted a prolonged immersion in Dick’s writing as well as a recognition of Rickels’s own long-documented intellectual pursuits. The result of this engagement is I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick, a profound thought experiment that charts the wide relevance of the pulp sci-fi author and paranoid visionary.
I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick explores the science fiction author’s meditations on psychic reality and psychosis, Christian mysticism, Eastern religion, and modern spiritualism. Covering all of Dick’s science fiction, Rickels corrects the lack of scholarly interest in the legendary Californian author and, ultimately, makes a compelling case for the philosophical and psychoanalytic significance of Philip K. Dick’s popular and influential science fiction.

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In Quest of the Ordinary
Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism
Stanley Cavell
University of Chicago Press, 1988
These lectures by one of the most influential and original philosophers of the twentieth century constitute a sustained argument for the philosophical basis of romanticism, particularly in its American rendering. Through his examination of such authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Stanley Cavell shows that romanticism and American transcendentalism represent a serious philosophical response to the challenge of skepticism that underlies the writings of Wittgenstein and Austin on ordinary language.

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Iris Murdoch Connected
Critical Essays on Her Fiction and Philosophy
Mark Luprecht
University of Tennessee Press, 2014
This volume compiles twelve essays that reflect the surging interest in the Irish-born author Iris Murdoch as both a writer and philosopher. Beyond her impressive body of philosophical works, Murdoch produced twenty-six novels, several plays, and numerous poems, short stories, and essays during her multifaceted career. The prolific novelist-philosopher has drawn attention from scholars in multiple disciplines, which reflects her range of interests as well as the accessibility of her work from varied perspectives.
            The first part of the collection focuses on Murdoch’s literary works and approach to art. Frances White’s opening essay examines the influence of Virginia Woolf on Murdoch, while Elaine Morley deals with attention and “unselfing” in the writer’s works. Much can be learned from Murdoch’s letters, as Miles Leeson and Anne Rowe demonstrate in their respective contributions. David James explores Murdoch’s influence on fellow Irish writer John Banville. Finally, Pamela Osborn and Rivka Isaacson offer vastly different perspectives on Murdoch’s fourth novel, The Bell, in the two essays that round out the literature-centric half of the collection.
            Part two highlights concepts in and approaches to Murdoch’s philosophical thought. Tony Milligan writes of the meanings of puritanism and truthfulness in Murdoch’s philosophical writings and essays and in her novel A Fairly Honourable Defeat. Julián Jiménez Heffernan’s contribution centers on Murdoch’s confrontation with the notion of contingency. Using the philosophical lens of metaxu, Kate Larson suggests a new approach to Murdoch’s thought by looking at it in relation to that of Simone Weil. Paul Martens locates the similarities of structure in Murdoch’s The Black Prince and Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. Lastly, Matthew Martinuk delves into the affinity of thought between Charles Taylor and Murdoch.
            By examining both Murdoch’s influences and those she has influenced, Iris Murdoch Connected constructs complex new understandings of this formidable writer’s vast contributions to literature and philosophy.

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Lunar Voices
Of Tragedy, Poetry, Fiction, and Thought
David Farrell Krell
University of Chicago Press, 1995
David Farrell Krell reflects on nine writers and philosophers, including Heidegger, Derrida, Blanchot, and Holderlin, in a personal exploration of the meaning of sensual love, language, tragedy, and death. The moon provides a unifying image that guides Krell's development of a new poetics in which literature and philosophy become one.

Krell pursues important philosophical motifs such as time, rhythm, and desire, through texts by Nietzsche, Trakl, Empedocles, Kafka, and Garcia Marquez. He surveys instances in which poets or novelists explicitly address philosophical questions, and philosophers confront literary texts—Heidegger's and Derrida's appropriations of Georg Trakl's poetry, Blanchot's obsession with Kafka's tortuous love affairs, and Garcia Marquez's use of Nietzsche's idea of the Eternal Return—all linked by the tragic hero Empedocles.

In his search to understand the insatiable desire for completeness that patterns so much art and philosophy, Krell investigates the identification of the lunar voice with woman in various roles—lover, friend, sister, shadow, and narrative voice.

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Montaigne and the Origins of Modern Philosophy
Ann Hartle
Northwestern University Press, 2013

Montaigne’s Essays are rightfully studied as giving birth to the literary form of that name. Ann Hartle’s Montaigne and the Origins of Modern Philosophy argues that the essay is actually the perfect expression of Montaigne as what he called "a new figure: an unpremeditated and accidental philosopher." Unpremeditated philosophy is philosophy made sociable—brought down from the heavens to the street, where it might be engaged in by a wider audience. In the same philosophical act, Montaigne both transforms philosophy and invents "society," a distinctly modern form of association. Through this transformation, a new, modern character emerges: the individual, who is neither master nor slave and who possesses the new virtues of integrity and generosity. In Montaigne’s radically new philosophical project, Hartle finds intimations of both modern epistemology and modern political philosophy.


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The Natural History of H. G. Wells
John Robert Reed
Ohio University Press, 1982

This new study offers a general reassessment of H. G. Wells as a writer and thinker. It concentrates upon the close relationship between Wells’ developing philosophy and his literary techniques. The early chapters examine Wells’ treatment of such subjects as confinement and escape, sex, the nature of human identity, the relationship of individual to race, human progress, and the importance of education. At the same time, the describe the emotional topography that Wells created as a mean of vivifying his ideas, a topography constructed from image complexes largely based upon the analogy between individual and racial evolution.

The major contribution of the book comes in its later chapters, which deal with Wells’ metaphysical assumptions and his approach to his craft. His views on free will and strength of will were intimately related to his methods of literary composition. The important later chapters detail this relationship, while describing some of Wells’ characteristic literary devices, such as the intentional violations of certain novelistic conventions or the sly borrowing from and alluding to contemporary works of literature in what amounted to a covert polemic.

On the whole, this study argues for a coherent and consistent, though developing, philosophy operating throughout Wells’ career and manifested in experimental literary works which, while not always successful, were consistently inventive and intelligently crafted in the service of Wells’ principle aim, the education of the human species to a command of its own destiny.


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Nietzsche and Dostoevsky
Philosophy, Morality, Tragedy
Edited by Jeff Love and Jeffrey Metzger
Northwestern University Press, 2016
After more than a century, the urgency with which the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Friedrich Nietzsche speaks to us is undiminished. Nietzsche explicitly acknowledged Dostoevsky’s relevance to his work, noting its affinities as well as its points of opposition. Both of them are credited with laying much of the foundation for what came to be called existentialist thought. The essays in this volume bring a fresh perspective to a relationship that illuminates a great deal of twentieth-century intellectual history. Among the questions taken up by contributors are the possibility of morality in a godless world, the function of philosophy if reason is not the highest expression of our humanity, the nature of tragedy when performed for a bourgeois audience, and the justification of suffering if it is not divinely sanctioned. Above all, these essays remind us of the supreme value of the questioning itself that pervades the work of Dostoevsky and Nietzsche.

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On Moral Personhood
Philosophy, Literature, Criticism, and Self-Understanding
Richard Eldridge
University of Chicago Press, 1989
In this remarkable blend of sophisticated philosophical analysis and close reading of literary texts, Richard Eldridge presents a convincing argument that literature is the most important and richest source of insights in favor of a historicized Kantian moral philosophy. He effectively demonstrates that only through the interpretation of narratives can we test our capacities as persons for acknowledging the moral laws as a formula of value and for acting according to it.

Eldridge presents an extensive new interpretation of Kantian ethics that is deeply informed by Kant's aesthetics. He defends a revised version of Kantian universalism and a Kantian conception of the content of morality. Eldridge then turns to literature armed not with any a priori theory but with an interpretive stance inspired by Hegel's phenomenology of self-understanding, more or less naturalized, and by Wittgenstein's work on self-understanding as ongoing narrative-interpretive activity, a stance that yields Kantian results about the universal demands our nature places on itself.

Eldridge goes on to present readings of novels by Conrad and Austen and poetry by Wordsworth and Coleridge. In each text protagonists are seen to be struggling with moral conflicts and for self-understanding as moral persons. The route toward partial resolution of their conflicts is seen to involve multiple and ongoing activities of reading and interpreting. The result of this kind of interpretation is that such literature—literature that portrays protagonists as themselves readers and interpreters of human capacities for morality—is a primary source for the development of morally significant self-understanding. We see in the careers of these protagonists that there can be genuine and fruitful moral deliberation and valuable action, while also seeing how situated and partial any understanding and achievement of value must remain.

On Moral Personhood at once delineates the moral nature of persons; shows various conditions of the ongoing, contextualized, partial acknowledgment of that nature and of the exercise of the capacities that define it; and enacts an important way of reading literature in relation to moral problems. Eldridge's work will be important reading for moral philosophers (especially those concerned with Kant, Hegel, and issues dividing moral particularists from moral universalists), literary theorists (especially those concerned with the value of literature and its relation to philosophy and to moral problems), and readers and critics of Conrad, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Austen.

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On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life
Reflections on Rousseau's Rêveries in Two Books
Heinrich Meier
University of Chicago Press, 2016
On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life presents Heinrich Meier’s confrontation with Rousseau’s Rêveries, the philosopher’s most beautiful and daring work, as well as his last and least understood. Bringing to bear more than thirty years of study of Rousseau, Meier unfolds his stunningly original interpretation in two parts. 
The first part of On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life approaches the Rêveries not as another autobiographical text in the tradition of the Confessions and the Dialogues, but as a reflection on the philosophic life and the distinctive happiness it provides. The second turns to a detailed analysis of a work referred to in the Rêveries, the “Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar,” which triggered Rousseau’s political persecution when it was originally published as part of Émile.  In his examination of this most controversial of Rousseau’s writings, which aims to lay the foundations for a successful nonphilosophic life, Meier brings to light the differences between natural religion as expressed by the Vicar and Rousseau’s natural theology. Together, the two reciprocally illuminating parts of this study provide an indispensable guide to Rousseau and to the understanding of the nature of the philosophic life.

“[A] dense but precise and enthralling analysis.”—New Yorker

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The Poetics of an Imaginary Science
Christian Bok
Northwestern University Press, 2002
'Pataphysics, the pseudoscience imagined by Alfred Jarry, has so far, because of its academic frivolity and hermetic perversity, attracted very little scholarly or critical inquiry, and yet it has inspired a century of experimentation. Tracing the place of 'pataphysics in the relationship between science and poetry, Christian Bök shows it is fundamental to the nature of the postmodern, and considers the work of Alfred Jarry and its influence on others.

A long overdue critical look at a significant strain of the twentieth-century avant-garde, 'Pataphysics: The Poetics of Imaginary Science raises important historical, cultural, and theoretical issues germane to the production and reception of poetry, the ways we think about, write, and read it, and the sorts of claims it makes upon our understanding.

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The Philosopher's Toothache
Embodied Stoicism in Early Modern English Drama
Donovan Sherman
Northwestern University Press, 2022
The Philosopher’s Toothache proposes that early modern Stoicism constituted a radical mode of performance. Stoicism—with its focus on bodily sensation, imagined spectatorship, and daily mental and physical exercise—exists as what the philosopher Pierre Hadot calls a “way of life,” a set of habits and practices. To be a Stoic is not to espouse doctrine but to act.

Informed by work in both classical philosophy and performance studies, Donovan Sherman argues that Stoicism infused the complex theatrical culture of early modern England. Plays written and performed during this period gave life to Stoic exercises that instructed audiences to cultivate their virtue, self-awareness, and creativity. By foregrounding Stoicism’s embodied nature, Sherman recovers a vital dimension too often lost in reductive portrayals of the Stoics by early modern writers and contemporary scholars alike. The Philosopher’s Toothache features readings of dramatic works by William Shakespeare, Cyril Tourneur, and John Marston alongside considerations of early modern adaptations of classical Stoics (Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius) and Neo-Stoics such as Justus Lipsius. These plays model Stoic virtues like unpredictability, indifference, vulnerability, and dependence—attributes often framed as negative but that can also rekindle a sense of responsible public action.

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A Philosophical Novelist
George Santayana and the Last Puritan
H. T. Kirby-Smith
Southern Illinois University Press, 1997

H. T. Kirby-Smith uses Santayana’s 1936 novel, The Last Puritan, as both an occasion and a means for bringing into focus the complex relations between Santayana’s life, his personality, and his philosophy. Opening with an account of Santayana’s various literary styles and arguing for the significance of Santayana’s writing of philosophy as literature, Kirby-Smith notes that Santayana saw the rational life as a continual adjustment and accommodation of contradictory claims. And he saw a literary style as an accommodation of the author to the reader.

Chapters 2 through 5 provide the philosophical background for a consideration of The Last Puritan, summarizing exactly how Santayana assimilated other philosophies into his own.

Chapters 6 and 7 incorporate Santayana’s three-volume autobiography, his letters and memoirs, and biographical studies by others into a psychological portrait of the author. All of this is in preparation for chapters 8 and 9, which focus on The Last Puritan. Kirby-Smith closes with a chapter that serves as a legal brief in defense of the author against the harsh, sometimes malicious attacks of his critics.


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The Pluralistic Philosophy of Stephen Crane
Patrick K. Dooley
University of Illinois Press, 1993
The first extended analysis by a scholar
formally trained in the discipline of philosophical inquiry. Dooley shows how
Crane's philosophical pluralism, which represents his response to the acute moral
uncertainties resulting from the decline of late nineteenth-century religious
authority, allies him with the contextualism of such contemporary philosophers
as William James, C. S. Peirce, and Josiah Royce."
-- James B. Colvert, author of Stephen Crane

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Sade My Neighbor
Pierre Klossowski
Northwestern University Press, 1991
Enlightenment ideals of a society rooted in liberationist reason and morality were trampled in the wake of the savagery of the Second World War. That era's union of cold technology and ancient hatreds gave rise to a dark, alternative reason—an ethic that was value-free and indifferent with regard to virtue and vice, freedom, and slavery. In a world where "the unthinkable" had become reality, it is small wonder that theorists would turn to the writings of a man whose eighteenth-century imagination preceded twentieth-century history in its unbridled exploration of viciousness, perversion, and monstrosity: the Marquis de Sade.

Klossowski was one of the first philosophers in postwar Europe to ask whether Sade's reason, although aberrant and perverted to evil passions, could be taken seriously. Klossowski's seminal work inspired virtually all subsequent study of Sadean thought, including that of de Beauvoir, Deleuze, Derrida, Bataille, Blanchot, Paulhan, and Lacan.

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The Senses of Walden
An Expanded Edition
Stanley Cavell
University of Chicago Press, 1992
Stanley Cavell, one of America's most distinguished philosophers, has written an invaluable companion volume to Walden, a seminal book in our cultural heritage. This expanded edition includes two essays on Emerson.

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Yeats and the Logic of Formalism
Vereen M. Bell
University of Missouri Press, 2006
Yeats and the Logic of Formalism deals with formalism as a philosophy in Yeats’s works and how that in turn affects both his art and his social vision. Vereen M. Bell’s linking of “formalism” and “philosophy” stems from a meditation by Yeats in a manuscript note: “I am always feeling a lack of life's own values behind my
thought. They should have been there before the stream began, before it became necessary to let the work create its values.” In Bell’s reading, formalism is not simply a philosophy of art but a philosophy of life as directed by art—existential at its source and unpredictably political in its applications.
            Bell examines formalism as an ideology and evaluates its credibility in Yeats's practice in relation to other theoretical discourses and in the context of the turbulent cultural and historical circumstances under which Yeats worked. He invokes and elaborates upon Edward Said’s reading of Yeats as a special kind of colonial subject. He revisits in this context the issue of how much Yeats and Nietzsche have in common and argues, in the manner of J. Hillis Miller, that the primordial is for Yeats what formalism ultimately sets itself against.
            Yeats and the Logic of Formalism mediates between older, traditional readings and recent materialist critiques of Yeats’s work in an effort to restore a balanced perspective. The author centers most of his discussion on Yeats's poems as acts of thought, both as poetry and as a body of ideas. Within this context he
maintains that Yeats as a modernist is essentially aligned with Wallace Stevens in the project of creating supreme fictions. Formalism in this function, he argues, is an ideology without  content. As such, it compelled Yeats to remain unsettled in his outlook. On the other hand, it enabled him, as Richard Ellmann has pointed out, to continually adapt and readapt "himself to the changing conditions of his body and mind and of the outside world."

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