Title

Poetic Duration: A Study of e.e. cummings Sonnets as a Critique of Scientism's Unreality

Authors

Tracy Bessette

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2005

Abstract

e.e. cummings is a poet widely recognized as being one of the most inventive and experimental writers in his field. Yet, despite his revolutionary style, critics often dismissed the significance of his poetry as being childish and irrelevant. I would like to suggest, however, that the distortions of syntax and the typographical idiosyncrasies seen in his work are much more than mere whimsical eccentricity on cummings? behalf, but are actually the aesthetic manifestation of a deeply considered philosophical perspective. It is a perspective grounded in an attempt to undermine society?s progressive dependency on scientism (a single-minded adherence to a strictly mechanistic worldview). It was cummings? belief that these views falsifies and impoverishes existence into what he calls an ?unworld? and it is through his poetry, particularly his sonnets, that cummings seeks to supplant the idea of scientism and replace it with a presentation of a more active reality that escapes from mathematical reason and instead focused on the act of being and interacting in the world. It?s a position that aligns him with contemporary philosophers like Arthur Schopenhauer, Fredrick Nietzsche, and Henri Bergson, who had already established serious critiques against science and advanced a vitalist philosophy. It is because of close similarities between the vitalism and cummings? poetry that I believe by understanding the former proves to be the essential key to interpreting the whole of cummings? literary output, and likewise the crux of his foundational ontology.

Advisor

Damian Stocking

Department

ecls

Support

Ford Research Endowment

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