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140 LETTERS IN CANADA 1980 Dickens and Lawrence as the source of wisdom, health and life that our civilization needs' (p 302), but this 'pointing' excludes from the tradition that which precedes what Grant has defined as 'modernity'; Leavis's admired writers may be critics of modernity, yet they are as well the products of it. Our critical sense, if criticism is to be meaningful, must include a greater awareness than the later Leavis demonstrates of what preceded - and was destroyed by - the modern spirit. Notwithstanding the objections that can be made to Bilan's arguments, his book deserves our attention. And because he is part of the Canadian academic community, perhaps his work will set some Canadian critics to reading Leavis with attention. Leavis does not require disciples, but his achievement - properly appreciated - could give to those who study our literature the conviction that evaluation, and the relationships between literature and life, are concerns we have, for too long, neglected. (DAVID JACKEL) Charles Doyle, editor. William Carlos Williams: The Critical Heritage Routledge & Kegan Paul. xix, 436. $47.25 Williams's reputation remains equivocal nearly twenty years after his death. Dorothy Dudley in 1918 found the poetry of Al Que Quiere! 'at its best fibrous, marvelously observant, delicate, haunting; then at moments stilted, confused, obtuse.' As late as 1964 James Dickey, reviewing The Collected Later Poems, observed: 'One will find here, also, Williams' most discouraging qualities, monotony and arbitrariness, which proceed from what looks suspiciously like the notion that to present were sufficient were always sufficient' (Dickey's emphases). Yet Dickey can also ask in the same notice: 'Has any other poet in American history been so actually useful, usable, and influential?' Usable but arbitrary, observant yet obtuse. A word which recurs in this volume is 'naive' and sometimes the term 'faux naif' to suggestarhetorical stance of bluntness. That this element of sincere 'posing' in Williams served a conscious strategy from the time he found his own poetic voice seems clear enough. In 1924 Paul Rosenfeld noted: 'He can give himself ... in his crassness ... in absurd melancholy, wild swiftness of temper.' Williams knew better than anyone else the risks he was running in his literary radicalism. He realized the division of opinion he would create and pugnaCiously rejOiced at the prospect. Following the generalformat ofThe CriticalHeritage series, this volume contains 132 items of varying length and importance covering almost 60 years from 1909 to 1967. One checks for the major items. Here is D.H. Lawrence's review of In the American Grain (1926), a work owing something to Lawrence's own Studies in Classic American Literatureof 1923. HUMANITIES '4' Lawrence praises Williams's attempts to 'bring into his consciousness America itself, the still-unravished bride of silences.' Here also is Wallace Stevens with his review of Collected Poems 1921-1931, including the goading repetition of the phrase 'anti-poetic' which so infuriated Williams and which still continues to reverberate in critical discussions of the poet. We find Randall JaITell's two reviews of books of Paterson: enthusiasm for Book 1 and disenchantment with Book 4. Robert Lowell's notice of Book 2 of Paterson, praising Williams's 'combination of brilliance, sympathy, and experience: also appears. So does Leslie Fiedler's review of the same book, attacking Williams because he 'pursues absolutely the seen poem.' Consequently 'there is no song in him.' This, if true, would prove devastating, yet there is generally in Williams criticism a lack of textual analysis. Too often the poems are treated as footnotes in the history of an idea rather than as autonomous entities. It is a relief to find someone such as Alan Stephens engaging seriously with Williams's abiding concern with 'measure.' Such a consideration helps to remove some of the 'arbitrariness' from the poems and renders them more 'usable' to others. By the end of his career Williams had attained the status of an American classic, at least in the United States. In Britain during the 1950S and '960s, when his work first became available on any significant scale, the pattern of incomprehension and resistance was repeated. 'The case of William Carlos Williams remains the rock on which Anglo-American literary opinion splits...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 140-141
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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