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The Poetry of the PossibleSpontaneity, Modernism, and the Multitude$
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Joel Nickels

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816676088

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816676088.001.0001

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Modernism and Spontaneous Organization

(p.1) Introduction
The Poetry of the Possible

Joel Nickels

University of Minnesota Press

This introductory chapter examines the complex mixture of concrete political ideology and speculative abstraction that helps to shape the models of spontaneity deployed by the modernist. It focuses on several modernist authors, including William Carlos Williams, Wyndham Lewis, Laura Riding, and Wallace Stevens. Each modernist is especially sensitive to the ways socially conditioned responses can shape even one’s deepest, most private cognitive and affective orientations, making them seem like natural, spontaneous dispositions. In other words, these modernist authors believe that acting in a natural-seeming, unpremeditated fashion may provide for no real spontaneity, only pretwisted affective outpourings. It argues that Williams, Riding, Lewis, and Stevens locate spontaneity less in isolated, individual minds than in sites where individual mental impulses overlap with modernity’s large-scale mechanisms of public contestation and collective life.

Keywords:   spontaneity, modernist, William Carlos Williams, Wyndham Lewis, Laura Riding, Wallace Stevens

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