The material imagination
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This study considers Anne Bradstreet, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Olson as poetic world-builders. It examines the diverse heterocosms—alternate universes—that these writers construct by bridging the gap between an external, material world and the abstract, sense-driven world of the interior. By considering language as an objective technology, this project looks at language as micro-systems that evolve over time. By studying these micro-systems of language, we can begin to describe states of being as they are rendered through poetry. The chapter on Anne Bradstreet considers her public and private poems as the beginnings of lyric poetry in America, and I argue that the rhetoric of her private poems, meant as a kind of archive for her family, follow the guidelines for meditation put forth by St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Along the same lines, the chapter on Jonathan Edwards considers his scientific essays and the posthumous Images or Shadows of Divine Things as spiritual lexicography, as a method of categorizing and defining worldly phenomena. This should interest anyone with knowledge of eighteenth-century Calvinism as it describes Edwards’ deep investment in the physical world, an uncommon assumption for his perspective. Lastly, the chapter on postwar poet Charles Olson describes his work through the work of George Butterick, the curator of the Olson Collection at the University of Connecticut in the 1970s and 1980s. Butterick is responsible for The Guide to the Maximus Poems (1981) which considers Olson’s Maximus Poems as an archival storehouse and textually links to the more esoteric references in order to explain them. This study links these culturally unique writers by looking at their works as repositories for spiritual data, where poems operate both as spiritual archives and linguistic presences.