Abstract

By assessing the relationship between William Carlos Williams scholarship and the visual arts my article focuses on how Williams’s aesthetics, influenced by Cubism’s fusion of object with surrounding space, challenged human-centered perspectives. I compare traditions of appropriative art such as Dada that reconditioned, re-used, and redeemed “found” material that had been regarded as waste to perspectives on art, nature, and subjectivity that can be defined as post-human or at least not human-centered. Building on Clement Greenberg’s focus on the materiality of representation—pigments, language itself—I argue that modernists such as Williams drew their medium closer to physical environments and thus away from structuring the picture plane according to Renaissance/Humanist one-point perspective. My article reflects on the ecocritical implications of such work as Williams’s Paterson, and his loyalty to a city characterized historically by abandonment and pollution. A bond, I argue, that was forged partly by Williams’s Dadaist openness to conventionally unaesthetic and “irredeemable” subjects and objects, things that the industrial world used up, transformed into plate glass and automobile, or discarded as slag heap. The poem’s empathy with the Passaic’s “down-at-the-heel,” neglected, spurned, and ordinary beings also extends beyond humans.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0244
Print ISSN
0196-6286
Pages
pp. 116-134
Launched on MUSE
2016-12-22
Open Access
No
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