UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

William Carlos Williams and the dance Field, Roger Michael


The thesis is, that the dance, as metaphor and as ordering function, is central to an understanding of William Carlos Williams' poetry and of his activity as poet. The first chapter, which is a ground for what follows, begins with a close examination of "The Rose" from Spring and All as a demonstration of some of Williams' basic principles concerning the act of making the poem. My emphasis is on what one can observe happening in the poem itself, the poem as enactment or dance. I then proceed to examine the prose passages from Spring and All as statement of those principles, in order to establish the meaning of some terms, imitation, engagement, imagination, as Williams uses them "both as theory in the prose descriptions and as actuality in the poems. The second chapter deals with the notion of dance as alternative to description, the action or enactment in a poem, which Williams calls imitation. I attempt to show what dance is, the metaphor of it, and how it might manifest itself in (as) language, that is to say, the energy of the poem as dance. Then, in the light of several poems included in the text of the chapter, I discuss imitation in terms of composition and invention, what Williams considers the basic activities of the poet in the making of a poem. The third chapter deals with the act of engagement as dance, to engage in an activity, making love or writing a poem. I attempt to show, by reference to several of Williams' short stories and to In the American Grain, as well as to the poems, some of the kinds of perceptions and awareness that are characteristic of this kind of engagement, and how they shape the poem; and, in the end, to come to an understanding of what Williams means by penetration. In the fourth chapter, measure as dance, I examine some of Williams' ideas and practice in the rhythm and form of the poem, to show how measure is the shape the dance assumes, and how Williams resolved some of his own difficulties concerning the problem of measure. And the chapter concludes with a restatement of, and an insistence upon, the importance of the metaphor of dance. My purpose has not been to attempt a historic analysis or evaluation of Williams as critic and theorist, or as poet – though the fact of the thesis does imply certain judgements of value, and the text of it is, to some degree, analytical -- but to demonstrate and elucidate, by making the dance a basis for my discussions, some of Williams' primary concerns as poet. My emphasis, then, has not been on the views and theories of other critics, not on chronological developments in the poems themselves, but on the facts of the dance, immediate and actual.

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