Date of Award

1998

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

J. Bainard Cowan

Abstract

Clarity, in all its various guises, was before the advent of Romanticism looked upon as an unquestioned focus of attention and irrefutable goal of human endeavor. Conversely, ambiguity was seen negatively: it was in language an obstacle to communication; in ethics, an indecisiveness failing action; and in ontology and aesthetics, a slovenly disorder. With Romanticism, this basic consensus regarding these terms ends. No longer an expression of censure, ambiguity is imagined as a liberatory force. Clarity, if attainable at all, is dismissed as mere rigidity. The works of Americans Henry James and Wallace Stevens embody and enact this tension and transferal between ambiguity and clarity to a singular degree. Henry James's The Ambassadors instances a tragicomedy of vagueness, while Wallace Stevens' lyrics reimagine and reinstate clarity in a modernist age of decreation.

ISBN

9780591766691

Pages

227

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