UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Poetry as possibility Macfarlane, Walter Julian


This thesis explores the concept of possibility in terms of an aesthetic theory applicable to poetry. The concept is widely used in different ways by different writers, but seldom dealt with analytically as is the intention here. Chapter I deals first with the empirical concomitants of the concept and their relation to notions of convention and stylistic transgression in poetry. The argument then proceeds to examine the philosophical ramifications of these relations in terms of Whitehead's views on aesthetic integrations. In substantiating these views ontologically, a theory of poetry as a form of contemplative thought emerges. Chapter II defines the ontological grounds of poetic possibility in a more rigorous manner utilizing distinctions basic to both the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and the theories of the so-called "structuralist" school. The relationship of poetry to "nature" and "culture" is of parmount importance in these speculations, and is defined in such a way as to reconcile processal and structural definitions of the poetic experience. The chapter resolves by relating the ontological ground of poetic possibility to notions of metaphor and ambiguity developed in the writings of Wallace Stevens and others. Chapter III explores the notion of poetic ambiguity further in terms of a theory of imagination which draws upon the theories of Stevens, Coleridge, and Heidegger. The linguistic consequences of this theory of imagination are discussed in terms of a practical demonstration, an explication of William Carlos Williams' “Nantucket". In this way, the argument establishes the metalinguistic grounds for defining and analyzing poetry. The chapter concludes, relating the metalinguistic grounds of poetry, as defined, to the notion of poetic possibility previously developed.

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