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Thinking Literature across Continents

By
Ranjan Ghosh
Ranjan Ghosh

Ranjan Ghosh teaches in the Department of English, University of North Bengal, and is the author of, most recently, Transcultural Poetics and the Concept of the Poet: From Philip Sidney to T. S. Eliot.

J. Hillis Miller is UCI Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Irvine and the author of, most recently, An Innocent Abroad: Lectures in China.

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J. Hillis Miller
J. Hillis Miller

Ranjan Ghosh teaches in the Department of English, University of North Bengal, and is the author of, most recently, Transcultural Poetics and the Concept of the Poet: From Philip Sidney to T. S. Eliot.

J. Hillis Miller is UCI Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Irvine and the author of, most recently, An Innocent Abroad: Lectures in China.

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Duke University Press
ISBN electronic:
978-0-8223-7369-8
Publication date:
2016
Book Chapter

Western Theories of Poetry: Reading Wallace Stevens’s “The Motive for Metaphor”

By
J. Hillis Miller
J. Hillis Miller
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Published:
November 2016

After an initial, admiring discussion of Ghosh’s development of a subtle, complex, and capacious theory of poetry in his chapter 3, Miller asserts that what is most striking about Western theories of poetry is their diversity and their rootedness in changing historical contexts. He then goes on to try to account for just what happens in his mind, feelings, and body when he does a detailed reading of a poem by Wallace Stevens, “The Motive for Metaphor.” He stresses that he did not know initially where his reading was going to lead. Though Miller makes reference to a number of theorists (Aristotle, Benjamin, de Man, and Stevens himself), his empirically reached conclusion is that all the theoretical knowledge in the world is of little help in the actual business of reading a given poem in its uniqueness and in its resistance to inevitably oversimplifying theoretical presuppositions.

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