A Case Study of E. E. Cummings: The Past and Presence of Modernist Literary Criticism
Bast, Laura Stefanie Dawn
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The early- to mid-twentieth century criticism surrounding E. E. Cummings often dismisses his poetry in Eliotic terms. In analyzing Cummings’s critics’ arguments and methodologies, I attempt to reveal the ways in which Cummings has been unfairly labelled, and also the strains in modernist criticism that have continued up through to today. I compare the modernist approaches to the text to the way recent critics talk about Cummings in order to shed light on our critical inheritance from modernism. Finally, I analyse Cummings’s poetry in terms of one of the more recent discussions of modernist texts, that of relationship between commodity and advertising culture and modernist poetry. My project seeks, by using Cummings as a case study, to articulate not only how certain literary values came to be established, but also how certain methods of persuasion in literary criticism can undermine and even silence certain aspects of a text.