Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Amos N. Wilder on the "revisioning of the world" after WWI

The passage below is from Amos Wilder's Imagining the Real (1978). In a conversation with Margaret Rigg, Wilder describes the "revisioning of the world" after WWI in religion and the arts.
“…anyone who went to college, as I did, around the 1920’s, lived through World War I and the Depression and all, must have registered a change in outlook. The big change for almost all of us was our reaction against Idealism and Romanticism, whether in art or in religion. With what we had gone through we were initiated into a new outlook and sensibility.

“…What does one make of the turn to abstraction in painting? Anyway, the human image became distorted in art. This was true also of poetry and the novel; they reflected the same influences that gave rise to cubism and surrealism. … it was a transition from an inadequate understanding of man, to a richer, more profound sense of the dynamics of human nature. You had to break up the old simplistic representational idealism, break that up, before you could grasp a deeper humanism…
“But … the new sense of reality that went with [the new movements in the arts], as always with movements and culture, soon could become a fashion and a fad and could become a stereotype. … So it seems to me that the critic or even the ordinary person interested in what is genuinely important often has difficulty in distinguishing between the authentic and the imitative or the spurious.”
During WWI, Wilder volunteered in the Ambulance Field Service, and subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Field Artillery in 1917. He graduated from Yale University in 1920, and in 1923, published a volume of poetry entitled Battle-Retrospect (the work winning the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition for that year). According to a letter from Florence Earle Coates to Wilder in January of 1924, Coates had received a copy of the book and was "charmed by new and eloquent lines," offering only the criticism and suggestion that he refrain from using "too many rare and aristocratic words." Wilder would become an ordained minister (1926), and subsequently Professor of Divinity at Harvard University in 1954.
Letters from Florence Earle Coates to
Amos Niven Wilder courtesy of
Wilder's son, Amos Tappan Wilder
Amos N. Wilder was older brother to American playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder. See more about the connection between Wilder and Florence Earle Coates at Amos N. Wilder on Hope and Mrs. Coates.

1 comment:

  1. You've inspired me to look for more on Wilder's poetry. :)