The Immigrant (not simply Spanish) Purview and Poetics of George Santayana
Colón, David A.
The philosophy, criticism, and poetics of George Santayana (1863-1952) greatly influenced some of the most important writers in the Modernist moment - and are widely regarded as an oeuvre shaped to the core by Santayana’s experience and identity as a native Spaniard. While critics and biographers of Santayana have upheld the view that Santayana’s Spanishness is deeply evident in all reaches of his moral, theoretical, and aesthetic outlook, this essay argues not for the particular importance of Santayana’s Spanish roots, but rather for the importance of the cultural traumas of his immigrant experience in the US as they relate to his philosophical worldview and poetics. His cynical, materialist philosophies that decry faith in institutions as well as institutional faith, coupled with his privilege of ethical underpinnings and syntactic complexities in poetry, can be attributed more to his immigrant purview than to an especially Spanish persona. Recontextualising Santayana’s poetics in light of his biography, this essay reexamines Santayana’s key contributions to ideations of American Modernism, particularly in the field of poetry: Santayana’s influence on Wallace Stevens’s doubt and T. S. Eliot’s ‘objective correlative,’ some of the most lasting tropes of Modernist poetry - poetics derivative of a disillusionment endemic to the interstitial cultural sphere of the immigrant.
George Santayana, Immigrants, Poetics