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George Oppen and the Fate of Modernism$
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Peter Nicholls

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199678464

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199678464.001.0001

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‘A metaphysical edge’

‘A metaphysical edge’

Seascape: Needle’s Eye

(p.136) 6 ‘A metaphysical edge’
George Oppen and the Fate of Modernism

Peter Nicholls

Oxford University Press

This chapter explains that after George Oppen Settled in San Francisco, he was fascinated anew by the city of his adolescence and especially by an acute sense of being at the edge of the continent. The move beyond the busy life of New York City was also a move toward new preoccupations. The tension he had previously explored between singularity and numerousness, a pre-eminently social tension, was projected into a new set of relations for which the ‘bare edge of the continent and simply space beyond’ became a powerful figure for the poem. This chapter also deliberates that Oppen found San Francisco to offer intimations of ‘a metaphysical edge’ which was, literally, the horizon, the bounding line between the sea and sky, the unlimited space. This inspiration became a key motif to his new collection of poems.

Keywords:   George Oppen, San Francisco, singularity, numerousness, social tension, metaphysical edge

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