The semantics of structure

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One of the salient characteristics of Modernism, particularly of its early phases, is a new and different attitude towards the visual aspects of literary texts. Poets like E. E. Cummings and William Carlos Williams begin to exploit the visuality of their texts as an additional, important means of expression – often by means of iconicity. Both use mainly diagrammatic iconicity with isomorphic function but in different ways. Many of the texts concerned, particularly in the case of Cummings, are visually ostentatious, striking or simply strange but recalcitrant to interpretation. The poetics both of Cummings and of Williams have strong affinities with Romantic ideas about the function of literature, and both poets share a particular interest in short-circuiting the vicissitudes of linguistic meaning-making.


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