Finding a Word for Ourselves: George Oppen’s Of Being Numerous

  • Matthew Carbery
Part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics book series (MPCC)


In this chapter, Carbery presents a phenomenological reading of George Oppen’s long poem ‘Of Being Numerous’ (1968). He argues that Oppen’s use of serial form in this work and others is informed by the notion that seriality can act as an analogue for intersubjectivity. In this regard, Oppen is presented as a poet whose major philosophical, ethical and political concerns involve questioning how it is possible to live amongst others. The chapter develops this argument by tracing Oppen’s own engagement with Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of Being, and specifically the intersubjective aspects of Heidegger’s phenomenology. In detailing the openness and ambiguity of Oppen’s work, this chapter works towards clarifying the notion of ‘actualness’ in his poetry.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Carbery
    • 1
  1. 1.Plymouth UniversityPlymouthUK

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