Original Research

A close[r] reading of E.E. Cummings’s ‘anti-rationality’

J. E. Terblanche, A. M. de Lange
Literator | Vol 21, No 1 | a447 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v21i1.447 | © 2000 J. E. Terblanche, A. M. de Lange | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 April 2000 | Published: 26 April 2000

About the author(s)

J. E. Terblanche, Potchefstroom High School for Boys, South Africa
A. M. de Lange, School of Languages and Arts (English), Potchefstroom University for CHE, South Africa

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This article investigates the lingering suspicion prevalent among critics that E.E. Cummings’s poetry is essentially “anti-rational” and refutes this view in terms of a logical and ecological analysis of the sonnet “/ thank You God for most this amazing/day". AJ. Greimas's logical or semiotic square is used to show, firstly, that Cummings’s poetry is quite logical, even logical in the terms employed by those accusing him of anti-rationality; and, secondly, that this logic is part of a more expansive ecological reasonability within his poetry. It is argued that the negative response to Cummings is largely the result of a frame of anti-rationality being superimposed on his work, which, in turn, is based on a narrow dualistic outlook which presents itself as universal and “objective". Seminal responses to Cummings's work (such as those of R.P. Blackmur, Helen Vendler and Edmund Wilson) are examined in this article. The central question posed is what the frame of anti-rationality actually marks or masks - should Cummings’s poetry be shown to be quite rational, after all. In provisional conclusion it is argued that the frame marks or masks a contra-ecological blind spot in terms of which the true values of Cummings's poetry have been consistently overlooked.


Anti-Rationality; EE Cummings; Ecological Reasonability; Greimas; Logical Square; Critical Response To Poetry


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