Published Humanitas, Volume XXI, Nos. 1 and 2, 2008
The Catholic University of America
Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, by Peter J. Stanlis. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2007. 350 pp. $28 cloth. $18 paper.
Peter J. Stanlis contends that Robert Frost’s dualistic, “unsystematic philosophical view of reality” is the “foremost single element that scholars and literary critics need to consider in any study of his life and thought, including the themes of his poetry” (1). This assertion is, arguably, an overstatement, but, as for many Frost scholars, Stanlis’s bet noir is Frost’s official biographer, Lawrance Thompson, who “should have understood Frost well from all the sources available to him,” but whose account of Frost represents an “almost inverse ratio between the facts of Frost’s life, poetry, and talk and Thompson’s understanding of them” (9). Thompson, and other “critics whose beliefs are centered in an optimistic monism,” failed to “comprehend Frost’s dualism,” and often interpreted the bard’s life and art through the lens of “abnormal psychology,” resulting in “character assassination” and “severe misinterpretation of his work” (11). Stanlis wants to correct these alleged distortions. It is unlikely that his study will have a significant influence on biographical studies of Frost, which will continue to focus on actions and human relationships, but it will have a noteworthy impact on examinations of his poetry, which is the fundamental reason readers are interested in Frost.