A Son at the Front (Library of America) by Edith Wharton

By Edith Wharton

Encouraged via a tender guy Edith Wharton met in the course of her war relief paintings in France, A Son on the Front(1923) opens in Paris on July 30, 1914, as Europe totters on the point of warfare.

Expatriate American painter John Campton, whose in simple terms son George, having been born in Paris, needs to document for responsibility within the French army, struggles to maintain his son clear of front while grappling with the ethical implications of his actions. A poignant meditation on artwork and ownership, fidelity and responsibility, A Son on the Front is Wharton’s indelible tackle the conflict novel.

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While the literary ambitions of The Venice Poem are evident enough (at thirty-two pages it remains one of the longest of Duncan’s single poems), its attempt to forge in lyric language and serial form the content of a newly achieved gay subjectivity—working through a number of gender positions in the process (very much in the mode of Butler’s concept of gender asymmetry)—is perhaps its most spectacular achievement. As I suggest, this poem must be read in the context of Duncan’s groundbreaking essay “The Homosexual in Society,” published in Politics in 1944.

4 As Duncan comments in a similar vein in his 1969 interview with Bowering and Hogg: “It’s hard to recapture, to tell you about what it was like in 1950 to have something actually happening in poetry, because nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing had been happening in America, nothing at all. ). 5 As she suggests, “Projective Verse” wasn’t so much a bold new departure as “essentially a scissors-and paste job, a clever but confused collage made up of bits and pieces of Pound, Fenollosa, Gaudier-Brzeska, Williams and Creeley” (295–6).

The “genitalization of performance” cited by Michael Davidson serves to underscore the laboring after-effects of Olson’s initial forays into poetic production, particularly as reflected in his groundbreaking essay “Projective Verse” (Davidson, Guys 33). 3 It’s impossible to read “Projective Verse,” a central essay from this period, without becoming attentive to the enormous pressure exerted by tropes of manliness, of use and method as coded terms for appropriately performed masculine endeavor. Nor, in “For Sappho, Back,” “Hymn to the Word,” “A Lion upon the Floor,” and “In Cold Hell, In Thicket,” can one ignore the way that femininity is being fashioned—relentlessly so—made to function as a reflection of male ambition, prowess, assertiveness, and mastery.

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