In August 1943, Marianne Moore delivered a lecture at the then displaced annual international symposium Entretiens de Pontigny. Hosted at Mount Holyoke College and convened by the exiled French philosopher Jean Wahl, “Pontigny-en-Amérique” was a highly charged occasion at which the relation of intellectual life to global political crisis was unavoidably at issue. Moore’s contribution to the proceedings, “Feeling and Precision,” proved a defining statement of her compositional principles. Situating Moore’s statement in relation to the inquiry Wahl set out to develop through the symposium, this essay uses the terms established in “Feeling and Precision” to recalibrate the ethical turn Moore’s poetry took during and after the Second World War. Drawing on the lecture’s emphasis on the “compulsion to unbearable accuracy,” the essay traces the transition from the commitment to “fastidiousness” that characterized her early poetry, to the conscious development of a capacity for witness that became her postwar concern.

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