EPISTEMOLOGICAL MODELS SHARED BY AMERICAN PROJECTIVIST POETRY AND QUANTUM PHYSICS.
AuthorCARTER, STEVEN MICHAEL.
KeywordsQuantum theory in literature.
Spicer, Jack -- Criticism and interpretation.
Olson, Charles, 1910-1970 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919- -- Criticism and interpretation.
American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
Committee ChairO'Donnell, Patrick
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe American Projectivist verse of Jack Spicer, Charles Olson, and Robert Duncan contains within its poetics many epistemological assumptions shared by quantum physics. These assumptions exist in three broad categories: perception, process, and wholeness. In physics, the epistemology of perception has been profoundly altered by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Relation, which creates a symbiotic relationship between the observer and the observed. At least one photon of light is necessary to observe an electron; one photon is sufficient to alter the electron's momentum or position; therefore, a physicist affects an electron's "fate" in the act of observing it. Similarly, in Projectivist poetics, the perceptions of the reader are often enlisted to help "compose" the poem which is offered to him in "pieces," or, as in Robert Duncan's poetry especially, in self-reflexive segments. By "self-reflexive," we further mean that the Projectivist poem often "mirrors itself" as an electron "mirrors itself" as wave or as particle, while it is paradoxically both. A Projectivist poem may pause halfway through and "unravel" itself, i.e., study its own etymology. The reader thus must participate in "putting the poem back together," as the physicist participates in the phenomena he observes. The second epistemological model in physics and poetry stresses becoming, rather than being. Matter at the subatomic level has been defined as energy-in-flux. Similarly, the Projectivist poems of Charles Olson especially often exist as "fields" with no syntactical beginnings or endings. Moreover, the "I" of the Maximus Poems is often seen in a perpetual process of becoming the world of spacetime in the poems, creating a system similar to the being-and-becoming model of particle-and-field in quantum mechanics. Third, wholeness is a premise governing poetry and physics separately and together. Jack Spicer's thematics blend matter and consciousness, as "love and death matter/Matter as wave and particle." Similarly, Robert Duncan's poetics describes a "dancing organization between personal and cosmic identity." In physics, wholeness is seen primarily in an "implicate order" which attempts to overturn the old paradigms of fragmentation and connect matter and consciousness, including language, as interrelated systems of information.