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Echoes and moving fields : structure and subjectivity in the poetry of W.S. Merwin and John Ashbery

Author: Edward Haworth Hoeppner
Publisher: Lewisburg, Pa. : Bucknell University Press ; London ; Cranbury, NJ : Associated University Presses, ©1994.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
During the past two decades few contemporary poets have received as much critical attention as W.S. Merwin and John Ashbery. This is true in part because these poets - in quite antithetical fashions - have insistently challenged rudimentary suppositions about signification and meaning. Echoes and Moving Fields considers Merwin's course from A Mask for Janus to The Rain in the Trees, commenting on the demands
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Genre/Form: Criticism, interpretation, etc
History
Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Hoeppner, Edward Haworth.
Echoes and moving fields.
Lewisburg, Pa. : Bucknell University Press ; London ; Cranbury, NJ : Associated University Presses, ©1994
(OCoLC)621756268
Named Person: W S Merwin; John Ashbery; John Ashbery; W S Merwin; William Stanley Merwin; John Ashbery; William S Merwin; John Ashbery; John Ashbery; William S Merwin
Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Edward Haworth Hoeppner
ISBN: 0838752799 9780838752791
OCLC Number: 30070788
Description: 259 pages ; 24 cm
Contents: A nest of bones --
Time's bemused atlas --
Language for the dead --
Peripheral vision --
Shadows and glass --
(Dis)embodied poetics.
Responsibility: Edward Haworth Hoeppner.

Abstract:

During the past two decades few contemporary poets have received as much critical attention as W.S. Merwin and John Ashbery. This is true in part because these poets - in quite antithetical fashions - have insistently challenged rudimentary suppositions about signification and meaning. Echoes and Moving Fields considers Merwin's course from A Mask for Janus to The Rain in the Trees, commenting on the demands implicit in his use of stasis, primitivist grammar, and ellipses; it juxtaposes these predilections to the temporal progression, rhetorical play, and syntactical augmentations that mark Ashbery's poetry from Some Trees to A Wave. Drawing on oppositions inherent in the vertical and horizontal axes of language, Haworth Hoeppner uses structural, phenomenological, and deconstructive methods to assess the ideological impact of the various formal strategies that Merwin and Ashbery have employed. This study argues that poetic form provides a temporal score for perception. It demonstrates how Merwin constructs a synchronic field for language. Eventually committed to the notion that mythic concentration demands the ego lose itself in the object in the attempt to discover essence, Merwin aims at disembodiment. Haworth Hoeppner sets this practice against Ashbery's habit of diffusing the self in perception, a method that depends on reversals of figure and frame in order to contravene perspectival limitation.

A detailed treatment of mirror imagery illustrates how Merwin and Ashbery comment on the progress from "insufficiency" to "anticipation," which Jacques Lacan attributes to the mirror stage. Merwin has mirrors reflect a missing or amputated body in order to evoke a prelinguistic identity that vision cannot apprehend, while Ashbery turns on the specular image because it proves too well that "everything is surface." Language is itself a reflective medium, so that the difficulties posed by mirrors are a model for the problems of subjectivity generated by writing, problems especially evident in Merwin's and Ashbery's poetry. Echoes and Moving Fields concludes by arguing that the written word has always cast the self into suspicion. Merwin begins to recuperate from disembodiment by identifying himself with place and tribe in The Rain in the Trees; and Ashbery, in A Wave, turns belatedly on the subject trapped in deferral - but both poets continue to struggle with the political grounds for identity encoded in the two "non-referential" extremes of writing.

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