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Transcendentalism and Dualism: a Philosophical Approach to Robert Frost’s Poetry

Author FuZuoNa
Tutor LiWeiPing
School Shanghai International Studies University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Robert Frost poetry transcendentalism dualism language of philosophy
CLC I712.072
Type PhD thesis
Year 2013
Downloads 106
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Robert Frost, one of the greatest American poets of the20thcentury, is honored asan American national poet and as an outstanding leader of American literary circlesin modern times. In his poems he frequently employs New England settings to presentstrong rural flavors and romantic idyllic tastes with a philosophical connotationpresented in his vivid descriptions of nature. Concerning the method and content ofhis writing, Frost not only makes full use of traditional poetic writing techniques butalso brings forth new ideas and finally develops his own view of transcendentalpoetics at a higher perspective and a deeper level than most other poets. Hence Frostrealized a transition from a traditional poetic view to a modern one. Frost s writingtechnique conveys an insightful philosophical essence to his readers through hissimple and plain words, guiding readers to explore his poetry and to enter into hismarvelous spiritual world.This dissertation aims to study the themes of transcendentalism, dualisticopposition and unity, and the philosophy of language in Robert Frost’s poetry. Frostis a controversial philosophical poet. Due to the influence of transcendentalism, helived entirely in his own emotional world. Although his life was difficult, Frostremained optimistic in writing about his life through poetry, with his writingdisplaying a strong sense of transcendentalism. Frost exhibited an ability to pondertopics, grasp their essence, and eventually reveal their truth through physicalphenomena. His poems are of a dignified form, with his poetic lines characterized bya unique, charming use of wise sayings, ironic humor, and profound philosophicalideas. Frost treats life issues dialectically, converting sorrows into strengths anddisplaying a positive attitude towards life owing to his extraordinary, inspiringlyoptimistic spirit. Moreover, he applies philosophy to his life in his poetry andconsequently builds a strong spiritual world.Additionally, Frost’s poetry emphasizes the existence of two entities in thenatural world that constantly change and develop. In the process of mutual interaction,these entities gain mutual development. The inherent relationships in this dualistic opposition and unity, as well as in the philosophy of language, are important featuresof Frost’s poetry. This dissertation argues that language or parole, expresses not onlysuperficial meanings but, on certain occasions, allows simple sentences, like thoseused by Frost, to convey profound philosophical significance.This dissertation contains an introduction, three chapters, and a conclusion.The Introduction briefly introduces Frost s life experiences, provides a study onFrost at home and abroad, and describes Frost s literary achievements. This isfollowed by a summary of the main points of this study, its research methodology,and the dissertation s outline.Chapter One features an in-depth research on transcendentalist theory, whichclaims that man can surpass sense and possess enough rationality to know the truthdirectly. Transcendentalists believe that there is a realistic spiritual entity in the worldthat can surpass human experience as well as science, thereby mastering the truththrough intuition. This chapter uses transcendentalist theory to analyze thephilosophical characteristics in Frost s poems and to extensively discuss thetranscendentalist poetics of his writing, the intimacy between humans and nature, andthe divinity that pervades nature and humans. Frost believes that there is an intimacybetween man and nature an interactive and affinitive relationship of great integrity,where nature provides enough necessities for human beings who in turn transformnature and promote its capacity to effectively serve humanity.Chapter Two incorporates a systematic study of dualistic theory, which posits thatthe origin of the world is composed of two entities, spirit and matter, with spiritsurpassing matter and existing independently. This chapter examines thephilosophical theory of opposition and unity in Frost s poetry. According to dualistictheory, constant contradictions exist everywhere and in everything in the world. Theworld s oppositions and unities create mutual interactions and changes under certainconditions. This chapter reveals that Frost s poetry contains such dialecticaloppositions and unity in its depictions of the relationships between man and man aswell as man and society.Chapter Three introduces the theory of the philosophy of language in Frost s poetry. Generally, language expresses the meaning of language itself, but in particularsituations, this expression takes on a particular significance. In Frost s poetry, forexample, the theory of the sound of senses, metaphors and symbols, and agnosticismare all employed to illustrate his philosophy of language. Frost believes that poetryutilizes vocabulary to convey meanings, with language itself being a voice which canexpress emotions and moods, with simple words implying complex meanings.The Conclusion summarizes transcendentalist philosophy and the dualisticrelationships of opposition and unity and how these theories function in Frost s poetry,revealing its significant philosophical connotations, while also affirming Frost s lifeaccomplishments, his philosophical contributions to poetry, and the enduring qualityof his writing. Frost s combination of philosophy with poetry elevates the aestheticvalue and artistic infectivity of his work. By sophisticatedly combining philosophywith poetry, Frost forms a supplementary relationship between the two subjects thatnot only reveals his philosophical thinking but also elevates the aesthetic value of hispoetry to an organically philosophical-poetic whole.Frost s application of transcendentalism and dualism in his poetry reflects thepsychological development process through the presentiment of his poems characters.While other writers and poets in history have written philosophical poetry, no one hasarguably achieved the magnitude reached by Frost, who takes philosophy from his lifeexperience and expounds meanings of such profundity that an enlightened aftertasteremains long after the poems have been read. Frost s philosophical contributions inpoetry are among his greatest achievements, allowing his work to become immortal asan important cultural heritage for human beings.

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