introduction to the issue of beauty

Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999 09:24:21 -0400 (EDT)


Daniel (, in his fine contribution to this
discussion of premodern American style, helpfully added the element of
personal taste. "Personally," he wrote, "I like the Victorian style
because I see the beauty in their words." I suppose it should not go
without saying that personal preference is crucial and perfectly
legitimate here, in appreciating poetry and in all our discussions--even
those that aspire to the purely critical or analytical.

For the moment I'm interested in saying just this: William Carlos Williams
is going to be the most prominent and passionate advocate of modernism on
the principle that

		words are *not* beautiful things or beautiful thoughts...
		they're words! 

and		poems are not natural features of life and landscape....
		they're words; they're made; they're CONSTRUCTED!

Poems are made of bits of alphabet.

So (I'm kidding here....) it's Bill Williams versus Daniel Scott! Have it
on, guys! Let's do the argument! Go for it.  :)

Modernism was a provocation, a challenge, a kind of radicalism. It makes
us ask:

		1. What is beauty?
		2. Can something so consciously MADE, so utterly
		   CONSTRUCTED, be beautiful? (a new kind of beautiful?)
		3. Can language that is designed to be beautiful
		   in its loftiness and/or its ability to describe
	           the natural/actual world be said legitimately
		   to be *not* beautiful (that's what Williams would

Now we're at the nub of the issue.....


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