T H P H E

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THE HUMANE PARTICULARS
The Collected Letters of William Carlos
Williams and Kenneth Burke
Edited by James H. East
Significantly deepening our understanding of two key figures from the modernist period, The Humane Particulars collects the letters between William
Carlos Williams and Kenneth Burke. Written during forty-two years of close
friendship and literary debate, these nearly 250 letters span two long lives, two
complicated personalities, and two brilliantly productive careers. The animated
exchange between a canonical poet and the leading American rhetorical critic of
the twentieth century offers a more complete vision of their outlooks and their
contributions to the shape and tenor of the modernist scene.
Set in context by James H. East's introduction and explanatory notes, the letters begin just after Burke and Williams's initial meeting in 1921 during a tramp
through a New Jersey swamp and surrounding meadowlands. Their written
exchange follows the maturing of their friendship and professional regard. The
correspondence shows that Williams and Burke were fast friends during the
experimental twenties, preoccupied by individual and divergent projects in the
thirties and early forties, and reunited as enthusiastic correspondents after the
Second World War.
The letters refer to happy times spent together—walks in the woods, picnics
and swimming, and visits to Burke's farm in Andover, New Jersey. They reveal,
among other interesting personal matters, Burke's fascination with Williams's
double life as physician and poet, Burke's hypochondria, and Williams's at times
chastising medical advice to Burke. But, more important, the letters preserve the
continual wrangling over the origin and nature of literary form that enlightened
the pair's many disagreements. Of particular interest, the correspondence documents a largely unexplored aspect of Burke's career—his reciprocally influential
relationship with the writers of the late modern and midcentury periods.
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Born in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and
raised in New York, Maine, and Florida,
JAMES H. EAST holds degrees in English
and comparative literature from Florida State
University, the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill, and the University of North
Carolina at Greensboro. He has taught literature and composition for more than twenty
years at colleges and high schools in the
Southeast and currently teaches at the
Brookstone School in Columbus, Georgia.
East divides his time between Columbus and
Maine's Penobscot Bay.
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