The Poetics of Cultural Renewal

  • David A. Granger


In his Introduction to Poetry and Pragmatism, Richard Poirier argues that James, Dewey, and Stein take from Emerson … the license, the injunction, that they should make … any idea into their own. And they do this by troping or inflecting or giving a new voice to the idea, by reshaping it, to the degree that makes any expression of gratitude to a previous text wholly unnecessary …. Each is repeating; each is also original …. The past is present in each of us as a spur, an incentive to actions that, while emulating actions taken in the past by persons like ourselves, are expected also to exceed them.1


Ordinary Language Everyday World Previous Text Democratic Life Cultural Renewal 
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  1. 4.
    Emerson, “Compensation,” Emerson’s Essays: First and Second Series (New York: Gramercy Books, 1993), 52. Note the similarity to Wordsworth’s remarks on gain and loss in the “Intimations” ode.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    This is how Hilary Putnam describes “Cavellian skepticism” in Pursuits of Reason: Essays in Honor of Stanley Cavell, Ted Cohen, Paul Guyer and Hilary Putnam, eds. (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1993), viii. It is important to keep in mind that what we are calling “linguistic skepticism” both differs from, and might serve as a foil for, Cavellian skepticism, even as the latter can take its own linguistic forms.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    See on this issue Michael Fischer, Stanley Cavell and Literary Skepticism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    Stanley Cavell, In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988), 31. This book will be referred to as Quest with page numbers in the text for all subsequent citations.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    See Wittgenstein’s On Certainty, trans. Denis Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe, G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, eds. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1972), 49, where he says, “Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgment.”Google Scholar
  6. 29.
    Stanley Cavell, Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 126–127. These lines are actually from Cavell’s depiction of marriage and remarriage in certain Hollywood films, affirming, once again, his belief that skepticism is not simply a problem for philosophy.Google Scholar
  7. 37.
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Brooks Atkinson, ed. (New York: Random House, 1937/1854), 91–92.Google Scholar
  8. 38.
    Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Walden (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972), xiii.Google Scholar
  9. 51.
    I should note that Dewey has often been charged with not being sufficiently responsive to the social problems stemming from entrenched political conflict and struggle. For a useful critique of Dewey’s social vision along these lines, see C. Wright Mills’ Sociology and Pragmatism: The Higher Learning in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964/1942) and The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956).Google Scholar

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© David A. Granger 2006

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  • David A. Granger

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