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Hard Objects in George Oppen's Discrete Series

Hard Objects in George Oppen's Discrete Series This essay examines the objects in George Oppen's Discrete Series (1934). It considers their primary property to be their hardness – many of them have distinctively uniform and impenetrable surfaces. This hardness and uniformity is contrasted with 19th century organicism (Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Ruskin). Taking my cue from Kirsten Blythe Painter I show how in their work with hard objects these poems participate within a wider cultural and philosophical turn towards hardness in the early twentieth century (Marcel Duchamp, Adolf Loos, Ludwig Wittgenstein and others). I describe the thinking these poems do with regard to industrialization and to human experience of a resolutely object world – I argue that the presentation of these objects bears witness to the production history of the type of objects which in this era are becoming preponderant in parts of the world. Finally, I suggest that the objects’ impenetrability offers a kind of anti-aesthetic relief: perception without conception. If ‘philosophy recognizes the Concept in everything’ it is still possible, these poems show, to experience resistance to this imperious process of conceptualization. Within thinking objects (poems) these are objects which do not think. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

Hard Objects in George Oppen's Discrete Series

Modernist Cultures , Volume 13 (4): 22 – Nov 1, 2018

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2018.0227
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This essay examines the objects in George Oppen's Discrete Series (1934). It considers their primary property to be their hardness – many of them have distinctively uniform and impenetrable surfaces. This hardness and uniformity is contrasted with 19th century organicism (Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Ruskin). Taking my cue from Kirsten Blythe Painter I show how in their work with hard objects these poems participate within a wider cultural and philosophical turn towards hardness in the early twentieth century (Marcel Duchamp, Adolf Loos, Ludwig Wittgenstein and others). I describe the thinking these poems do with regard to industrialization and to human experience of a resolutely object world – I argue that the presentation of these objects bears witness to the production history of the type of objects which in this era are becoming preponderant in parts of the world. Finally, I suggest that the objects’ impenetrability offers a kind of anti-aesthetic relief: perception without conception. If ‘philosophy recognizes the Concept in everything’ it is still possible, these poems show, to experience resistance to this imperious process of conceptualization. Within thinking objects (poems) these are objects which do not think.

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: Nov 1, 2018

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