Robert Frost is by far the most celebrated major American poet of the twentieth century. In part, this is because his poetry seems, on the surface, to be so accessible, even homey. But Frost was not just a powerful writer of popular lyric and narrative verse, argues Peter J. Stanlis in this major contribution to American literary study and philosophy. Rather, his work is deeply rooted in a complex philosophical dualism that opposes both idealistic monism, centered in spirit, and scientific positivism, which posits that the universe can be understood as nothing but matter.
In Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, Stanlis shows how Frost’s philosophical dualism of spirit and matter is perceived through metaphors and applied to science, religion, art, education, and society. He further argues that Frost’s dualism provides a critique of the monistic forces that were instrumental in the triumph of twentieth-century totalitarianism. Thoroughly informed by his twenty-three year friendship and correspondence with Frost, Stanlis's landmark volume is the first attempt to deal with the poet’s philosophy in a systematic manner. It will appeal not only to fans of Frost but to all who understand poetry as a form of revelation for understanding human nature.
What They're Saying...
"Stanlis knew well that Frost disliked having his poems appropriated by teachers, scholars, and others in the business and analyzed line-by-line and word-by-word, often having read into the poem the reader's personal meanings and neglecting what the poet intended for the poem to convey. Stanlis, respectful of the poet's deeply-held personal preferences in this regard, approaches the poetry in this book in a manner with which Frost would have been delighted: Stanlis creates the intellectual milieu that gave birth to the poem and fits the poem into that milieu. Thus, we have beautifully presented a true portrait of Robert Frost as philosopher.
This is a remarkable book, and fills the much-needed void in discussing the pervasive dualism of Robert Frost, which was central to all of his writing, his conversations, and his life. We are indeed fortunate that a good friend of Frost, and such a consummate scholar, has focused his attention on the philosophic and religious dimensions of Robert Frost, and given us this fine study. It will be a guide through the life and writings of Frost for years to come."
— Robert Cotner, Independent Scholar
"Making good use of his decades-long friendship and correspondence with Frost, Stanlis traces Frost's influences and his approach to such thinkers as Darwin, the Huxleys, Lovejoy, Einstein, and innovators in disciplines ranging from the arts to education. This is essential reading for both scholars and students."
— Book News
"For all who have been captivated by Robert Frost's poetry, Peter Stanlis's break-through book "The Poet as Philosopher" offers a unique overview of the philosophical underpinnings that shed a clear light on the issues and beliefs imbedded in Frost's poetry. . . . I highly recommend it to all who want to deepen their appreciation of Frost the poet and to enrich their understanding of one aspect of Frost that has too often been overlooked, his philosophical beliefs."
— Lea Newman Professor Emerita Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
"With the long anticipated publication of Peter Stanlis's far-reaching and impressive Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, the clash of arms over Frost's career will likely reach détente. . . . Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher is an important book and a thoroughly convincing rejoinder to those who have misread Frost as a materialist."
— Robert Bernard Hass President, The Robert Frost Society Kenyon Review
"For a poet so richly and extensively gifted, a commensurately special kind of critic is required. Peter Stanlis fits the bill admirably. He meticulously tracks Frost through all the thickets of philosophy, science, education, politics and poetics, and the reader reaches the end of the journey gratified as well as enlightened. . . . What Dr. Stanlis has already done for Edmund Burke, he has now done for Robert Frost. We shall all have to revisit the poet in the light of the new perspectives that this study provides"
— Patrick Reilly Chairman Department of English Glasgow University
"With no little presumption does an historian venture into poetry. Yet Stanlis offers just such encouragement as he urges his reader to see Frost anew. The case for "poet as philosopher" is compellingly made in this volume. In summarizing a lifetime of research, publication, and intimate conversations with and about his subject, Peter Stanlis is little changed from him his alma mater knew; only more sure of all he though was true."
— John McCardell President Emeritus Middlebury College
"Stanlis does not contend that Frost was a systematic philosopher, an appellation that the poet himself would have refused. Rather, he depicts him as someone who starts with certain perceptions about reality, a series of insights that he seeks to confirm through study and conversation and which he puts into verse that would become an honored part of the American literary heritage."
— Paul Gottfried Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Elizabethtown College Society
"Peter J. Stanlis brings us his eagerly-awaited contribution to the 'ongoing clash of arms' over my grandfather’s life of doubts and ambiguities–themselves the mainstay of the poet’s complex palette. Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher (following, as it does, the appearance of Frost’s Notebooks) brings us ever closer to a full understanding of Frost’s lifelong journey of discovery, ever reflected in the centrality of his verse. Stanlis, an Edmund Burke scholar and author of Robert Frost: The Individual and Society, spent valuable time with his subject, enhanced by the ease with which he treats the seeming conflict between spirit and matter."
— Lesley Lee Francis, Author of Robert Frost: An Adventure in Poetry, 1900-1918
"Peter J. Stanlis has spent a lifetime reading and thinking about Robert Frost, and the bounty of his efforts is now here in this able, intelligent study of Frost as philosopher. Stanlis understands that philosophical dualism lay at the heart of this poet’s enterprise, informing his life and work. He demonstrates the effects of this fact in the poems, showing a subtle understanding of Frost’s verses as well as a deep knowledge of the Western intellectual tradition. This book offers a remarkable guide to Frost as thinker, and it will remain among the most valuable books on this great American poet."
— Jay Parini, Author of Robert Frost: A Life
"'The height of all poetic thinking,' wrote Frost in 1931, is the 'attempt to say matter in terms of spirit and spirit in terms of matter.' Peter J. Stanlis has given us a full and penetrating account of the metaphysical dualism that underpinned all of Frost's thinking—about poetry, religion, society, even science. This is a marvelous, deep study of the man who was, many will be surprised to learn, one of the most cerebral poets that ever lived."
— John Derbyshire, Contributing Editor, National Review
"Stanlis, who knew and spoke with Frost on and off between 1939 and the poet’s death...is best known as the formidable scholar of 18th-century literature whose Edmund Burke and the Natural Law (1958) revolutionized our understanding of Burke. Now, in Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, he has performed a similar task, producing a book that may well reshape our understanding of Frost....Amply footnoted, and buttressed by an impressive bibliography of secondary sources, Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher offers much-needed clarity on a man whose life and work have been too long shrouded in confusion. Stanlis has produced a landmark work that will prove essential to future readers who seek to understand Robert Frost."
— James E. Person Jr., National Review
"With the long anticipated publication of Peter Stanlis’s far-reaching and impressive Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, the clash of arms over Frost’s career will likely reach détente. ....it is an important book and a thoroughly convincing rejoinder to those who have misread Frost as a materialist."
— Robert Bernard Hass President, The Robert Frost Society, Kenyon Review