Whose Spirit is This? Some Questions about Beginnings and Endings
My title, ‘Whose Spirit Is This?’, comes from a poem called ‘The Idea of Order at Key West’, written in the early 1930s by the American poet Wallace Stevens. Stevens had long been interested in the poetry and the painting, as well as the aesthetic philosophy and the polemic, of the fin de siècle. His first book Harmonium had incorporated the excesses, what he called the ‘essential gaudinesses’, of that period, and celebrated the lively negotiation between the prerogatives of art and life which characterised imaginative discourse at the end of the nineteenth century. ‘The Idea of Order at Key West’, which appeared in Stevens’s second book Ideas of Order (1935), was a retrospective tribute to a period in which categories of artifice and naturalness, and of the material and the spiritual, provided new ways of describing art (or as some of the more pathologically minded thought, of diagnosing its condition), a period in which people talked, among other things, about the spirit of art and the spirit of nature.
KeywordsFatigue Coherence Logical Positivism Fishing Dunham
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