Renewal of Literature

Richard Poirier, Author
Richard Poirier, Author Random House (NY) $19.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-394-50140-6
Reviewed on: 02/01/1987
Release date: 02/01/1987
As Poirier tells it, T. S. Eliot spearheaded modernism's assault on American literature. Anglo-American modernism favored writing full of dislocations, of expressions of anxiety, loss and doubt. It made ""difficulty'' a virtue and elevated literature to a privileged, exclusive form of discourse. Poets like Frost and Stevens were pushed aside, made to seem naive and optimistic by comparison with modernists. Poirier takes as his starting point Emerson, whose pragmatic outlook defined literature as a testing-ground for the energizing spirit of human will. He follows what he discerns as an Emersonian tradition through such writers as Thoreau, Whitman, William James, Frost and Norman Mailer, ``the most conspicuous Emersonian of the present time.'' According to Poirier, literature does not have redemptive powers to change the world but, as ``the Olympus of talk,'' literature shows readers how a culture's assumptions can be challenged. Poirier is author of A World Elsewhere and Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing. (February 27)
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