Abstract

I argue that while William Carlos Williams has been interpreted, to borrow Marjorie Perloff’s phrase regarding Frank O’Hara, as a poet among painters, what I have not seen in the criticism, and try to address in my article, is a discussion of Williams in relation to work by aestheticians. The writings of George Dickie and Arthur C. Danto in the 1960s and 70s provide framework models which are powerful tools for approaching Williams’s “found” poems such as “This Is Just to Say,” which I read closely here. Danto on his major subject, Andy Warhol, can teach us to consider “This Is Just to Say” in a philosophical manner and I argue that the poem is an example of Danto’s view of Pop as transfigurative of otherwise indecipherable objects. At the same time, I critique Danto’s understanding of Warhol’s Brillo Box as the “ur” text of an art that is indecipherable to the eye, but only discernible as art because of a philosophical understanding of it as belonging to the art world. My intention is to link Brillo Box and “This Is Just to Say” as both decipherable—visually decipherable—in ways Danto must significantly downplay for his conceptual theory of art to add up. I argue that the works by Warhol and Williams I look at signal to their audiences the intention to—in Danto’s key words—“transfigure the commonplace” through the formal work of establishing differences between objects of little or no value—soap pad cartons and forgive me notes—and versions that are conceptually significant containers of meaning belonging to the art world.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0244
Print ISSN
0196-6286
Pages
pp. 53-65
Launched on MUSE
2016-12-22
Open Access
No
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