Wallace Stevens research

Published: 2018-10-16 15:47:43
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Harvey Mudd College
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Wallace Stevens poems   

Wallace Stevens is known for writing poems that are difficult to follow, due to strange and dense combination of words. Despite such difficulties, his poems do not fail to strike me with eureka moments. Reading the poem Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself, I took away the notion that if we could travel beyond the boundaries of language, chances are that the world around us would be perceived with a more creative mind. 

  From the first stanza, the poem illustrates a scrawny cry, emphasizing that it comes from outside with a minor confusion that the sound seems to come from his mind. “In March, a scrawny cry from outside looked like a sound in his mind.” Based on the manner in which words are put together, it implies that the sound comes from outside. However, there is an illusion that it comes from within. To further my illustration, the cry coming from reality suggests its true existence in nature or reality, since outside means that it is independent of our inner self. On the other hand, the sound of the mind is related to our experiences whereby there may be a pre-existing idea in our head that we sometimes mistake for a sound generated by ourselves. Arguably, such an idea is often gained through everyday experiences or passed down from our ancestors. 

      However, a line is drawn distinctly in this poem between telling the reality and ideas in our head. The second to fourth stanzas repeatedly underlines the idea that both the sun and the sound are originating from outside.  Despite this, the man listening is identifiable as being conscious of the fact. “He knew that he heard it,” the notion suggests that the sound is perceived through senses. In contrast, the author laments, “It would have been outside” in the third stanza and “The sun was coming from outside” in the fourth thus reminding us that it’s an independent aspect being outside of ourselves. 

Philosophical notion of meaning

     By now, it is evident what the poem is about. Nevertheless, another question springs up, why does the poem try to convince us that the sound and sun should be outside?  To find out the answer, I shall try to see what is taking place when the sound emanates from our head. As mentioned earlier, perceptions from within may be a pre-existing idea that is either taught or gained. Thus it’s worth noticing the way we express it is through language. However, when we use our language to express our intuition, it is often ignored. This reminds me of Wittgenstein, who once said, “philosophical notion of meaning is at home as a fundamental idea of the way language functions. On the other hand, one might say that it is the language’s design that’s more primitive than ours.” [Wittgenstein_Philosophical Investigation] I interpret his statements based on the fact that every word used has its meaning, nevertheless, what is important is the creation of language. Despite this, what happened during the process of language creation is similar to that of projection. We are trying to reckon our feelings while ascertaining how the outside world uses our language. However, since language is a projection, it has limited our ability to perceive the world. Essentially, the reality should have myriad ways of understanding it, not just the pre-existing ideas in our head. 

     In contrast, I would like to interpret the fifth stanza based on reality versus perception. “That scrawny cry, it was a chorister whose ‘c’ preceded the choir, identifiable as a part of the large sun.” In reality, the ‘c’ should come before chorister, thus marking the beginning of the music scale. Putting it in line with the colossal sun makes sense based on the fact that both ‘c’ and sun herald the new birth of a beautiful melody or life. 

     When I first read the poem, the opening lines constantly confused me. “Surrounded by its choral rings/Still far away. It was like/A new knowledge of reality.” To my confusion, what does the word new mean? In what way can we call something new in comparison to the old? Why is it identified as the knowledge of reality? In what sense does the poem talk about reality? 

      As I ponder over and over, the idea came to me in a similar manner to the “c” and the sun, in that reality is just the beginning of our imagination. Mostly, if we could let go of the pre-existing ideas in our mind, our capacity to travel beyond the boundaries of “languages” would be intensified. Additionally, we would stand a greater chance of interpreting the reality with the use of creativity and innovation, thus able to arrive at “a new knowledge of reality.” After all, it’s the creation of language that our imagination breeds, rather than the pre-existing ideas of the language.

Positive poem feedback 

•    The work displayed an excellent analysis of the work providing supporting materials to support the claim of the writer

•    The student effectively expounded on the poem explaining what is written in every stanza to convey the message of the poem

•    The student illustrated the poem to brief the reader on what the poem was all about, and that is the distinction between reality, its interpretation and what people perceive.

•    Additional resources such as the use of “Wittgenstein Philosophical Investigation” was used to provide an authoritative basis of support for the analysis of the poem

•   Flow of the work was evident and efficient of grammar was well portrayed in this analysis

•   It was a well-developed paper that effectively argued the main point of the article that is “Not the idea of language but language itself” by actually illustrating how language plays a key role in understanding of our world and reality.

Negative poem feedback

• Although the student explains how “inborn sounds” in our minds affect our language, the student does not provide a clear point of view to show the extent of this sounds and how they vary from individual to individual. The student should provide more explanation on how the sounds affect the mind from an individual level.  

• In constructive criticism, the student fails to consider that sounds in our heads can be in fact from the outside since our thoughts are a direct product of our environment. The paper should not solely focus on the notion that the sound originates from our minds. 

• The paper gives a point that giving up pre-existing ideas would enhance capacity to travel beyond boundaries of language but fails to contemplate the thought of pre-existing ideas coupled with new ideas would mean efficiency. The paper can consider the point of conjoining both the pre-existing and new ideas as this would enhance proficiency.  

• The student fails to acknowledge that analysis of language depending on the perception of increased creativity between people can give a clear way to perceive the world in reality. The student should not solely focus on the boundaries of language as the capacity to contemplate a new face of reality is diminished. 

• The student expresses some confusion on the work by asking questions but fails to answer, clarify and provide a greater dimension on them to convince the reader. The questions stated by the student throughout the paper should be defined adequately to provide an element of ease in understanding to the reader.

 

sheldon

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