Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The Jar

Anecdote of the Jar 

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Wallace Stevens

Throw something at it and see if it sticks.  I like Helen Vendler’s interpretation….

What do you do with an uncivilized, wild land?  Import European learning and literature “atop” it? 

The nature/culture divide?  Nature is wonderful but it is to culture where we must return.  If you are an artist, you turn towards direct experience in this land, but…you also turn to that which inspires you…European learning and thought….the products of other cultures.

Here’s a previous quote, or one way to approach it:

“Thus any spectator who beholds massive mountains climbing skyward, deep gorges with raging streams in them, wastelands lying in deep shadow and inviting melancholy meditation and so on, is seized by amazement bordering on terror, by horror and a sacred thrill.  But since he knows he is safe, this is not actual fear:  it is merely our attempt to incur it with our imagination, in order that we may feel that very power’s might and connect the mental agitation this arouses with the mind’s state of rest.  In this way we feel our superiority to Nature within ourselves, and hence also to Nature outside us insofar as it can influence our feeling of well-being.”

Immanuel Kant

So, direct experience and nature are important, but what will we think about that experience, and how can we know nature?

Addition:  I’ll try and get beyond Nietzsche‘s big gamble, Emerson’s transcendental perfectionism (and even Santayana‘s aesthetics) if you do too.   I also promise not to rest blindly upon Kantian transcendental idealism or Platonic idealism in epistemological or political affairs either.

Addition:  I should just post the poem.

Another Addition:  The work that Emerson did, and the depth of his arguments are not fully appreciated nor discussed in this post.

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