To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
A study of Elliott Carter’s song cycles and other text settings from the period 1998-2011, with close readings of both poetry and music. Included are individual analytical essays on Tempo e tempi (poetry by Eugenio Montale, Salvatore Quasimodo, and Giuseppe Ungaretti), Of Rewaking (poems by William Carlos Williams), In the Distances of Sleep (poems by Wallace Stevens), Mad Regales (poems by John Ashbery), “La Musique” (poem by Charles Baudelaire), On Conversing with Paradise (texts from Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos), Poems of Louis Zukofsky, What Are Years (poems by Marianne Moore), A Sunbeam’s Architecture (poems by e e cummings), Three Explorations (poems by T. S. Eliot), The American Sublime (poems by Wallace Stevens).
During Wallace Stevens’s lifetime, imperialism was already a global institution, but parsing Stevens’s relationship to imperialism was never an entirely transparent procedure. Siraganian’s chapter explores imperialism and colonialism through brief readings of some key poems, revealing how Stevens’s poetry investigates its relation to the competing imperial and colonial projects of his age. Throughout his poetic career, he closely followed geopolitical events, including Mussolini’s colonial invasion of Ethiopia, the invention of modern warfare, and the rise of totalitarian regimes. Various poems reflect this awareness. While Stevens’s views on the imperialist fantasies of his age were at times sympathetic, poems like “Anecdote of the Jar,” “Owl’s Clover,” “Life on a Battleship,” and “A Weak Mind in the Mountains” also provide alternative, more complicated accounts that question and sometimes oppose colonizing modes of cultural domination. Above all, imperialism, especially in its cultural variety, intrigued and worried Stevens as a particular variation on the question of knowledge that continually fascinated him. Contextualization of his poetry enables us to sort out Stevens’s competing allegiances at a chaotic historical moment: to anti-imperialism, to an embattled Western culture and ideology, to a unifying world of art and poetry.
Starting from Wallace Stevens’s own reflections on newness and its dynamic interchange with what comes before, the introduction explains how The New Wallace Stevens Studies is different from and complementary with previous edited volumes on the poet. After accounting for the selection of topics and contributors, it offers individual chapter summaries that simultaneously elucidate the volume’s tripartite rationale. The first group of essays explores concepts that have begun to emerge in Stevens criticism, from imperialism and colonialism to the poet’s utopian politics, his ideas about community-building and audience, his secularism, and his transnationalism. In the second part, contributors apply recent methodological and theoretical advances that have left a prominent mark on literary studies but not yet on Stevens scholarship. These include world literature, ecocriticism, urban studies, queer studies, intersectional thinking, and cognitive literary studies. Contributions to the final part reassess and deepen our understanding of issues that have long inspired critics. Here investigations include Stevens’s reception by later poets, his attitude toward modern fiction, different modes of his poetic thinking, aspects of his rhetoric and style, and his lyrical ethics.
Finch’s chapter argues that the rhetorical artifice in Wallace Stevens’s poetry may be best understood through the concept of manner. In contrast with style, which focuses on the personal signature of a writer’s work, manner refers to the more social, public aspects of a writer’s rhetorical bearing. Drawing on a range of critics who have theorized aesthetic manner and the politics of manners, including Pierre Bourdieu, Giorgio Agamben, Henry James, and Lionel Trilling, this chapter proposes that Stevens’s interest in textiles and clothing, in figurations of nobility, and in the mannerist syntax of repetition are not just neutral aesthetic traits but expressions of a sensibility tied to social categories that include class and race. After examining these intersections in poems spanning Stevens’s career, Finch closes by suggesting that the most meaningful approaches to Stevens’s formal prosody should remain attentive to the social posture and cultural tones of his language.
Although Wallace Stevens did not travel extensively outside the United States, his poetry is deeply concerned with expanding the boundaries of the poetic imagination to reach beyond its domestic and local settings. The desire to develop a poetics that is capable of establishing new nodes of interconnection between near and far places and cultures is palpable throughout Stevens’s oeuvre. Han’s chapter outlines and explores this aspect of Stevens’s poetry in view of recent theoretical interventions in literary transnationalism and global modernism. It argues that the poet’s exploration of diverse cultural materials and settings interrogates, rather than simply asserts, the border-traversing capacities of the poetic imagination. Stevens’s vision of artistic mobility and travel both displays a transnational aesthetic sensibility and reveals its moments of implosion; it explores at once the possibilities and limits of the imagination’s worldly affiliations and global circuits. The poet’s impulse toward national and cultural border crossings is composed of complex responses to the literary-political currents of his epoch, which range from the specific context of American nativism in the 1920s to more general developments of globalization and the Cold War.
Altieri’s chapter defines four basic modes of thinking in Wallace Stevens’s poetry. Harmonium (1923) reconceives what poetic thinking can be—from an ideal of cogent masculine argument to the possibility of thinking against generalization. Such thinking offers allegories that fascinate without resolving. And it shifts the sensuality of poetry from an emphasis on referring to sensuous detail to a lyric sensuality that is basic to the forms of concreteness established by the workings of the medium. Second, Stevens turns in Ideas of Order (1936) from valuing the eccentric to imagining how poetic thinking can become central to ordinary life. Third, by the final poems of Transport to Summer (1947), Stevens seems to become embarrassed by his own rhetoric of the hero and major man. He becomes increasingly concerned with blending the unreal of fiction with the work of realization, a concept strikingly parallel to Paul Cézanne’s idea of how art brings force and vitality to nature. Finally, that theoretical concern for blending fictionality with realization generates in The Rock (1954) a mode of poetic thinking inseparable from a sense of self-conscious dwelling that enables us to value the artifice present in even the most elemental of experiences.
Scholars of Wallace Stevens have variously represented him as a crafter of poetic utopias, a skeptic of utopian thinking, and a champion of utopian material sufficiency. Mao’s chapter adds to the picture by showing how, in his poetry of the late 1930s and early 1940s, Stevens situates leaders and movements impelled by visions of ideal futures within a conception of political life as an ongoing struggle for dominance between ideas. Reading texts such as “Owl’s Clover,” “The Man with the Blue Guitar,” and “Extracts from Addresses to the Academy of Fine Ideas” in relation to Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia and Max Lerner’s Ideas Are Weapons, the chapter shows that Stevens’s view of history as an interplay of imagination and reality partook of important currents in interwar intellectual life.
Although no real institutionalization of intersectional studies as such has yet taken place, the habit of thinking in terms of intersectional identities has established itself fully across multiple fields—from critical race theory to gender studies and queer studies as well as in sociological and legal studies. Steinman looks at some of the ways that intersectional studies have informed literary critical practice, including studies that focus on Wallace Stevens’s own identity (in terms of gender, race, and class) and on the figures enabled and occluded by his poetic imagination. Describing how previous critical work that addressed race, class, or gender in Stevens’s poetry might be refigured in light of the perspectives intersectional studies have brought to critical attention, Steinman offers, as an example of the merits and drawbacks of reading Stevens intersectionally, a discussion of “The Virgin Carrying a Lantern.” She sets this against an account of how many contemporary writers of color respond more to Stevens’s style than to his representations of others, voicing an ambivalence that repositions their work and Stevens’s work within African American literary tradition; Steinman suggests that such voices might open new possibilities for intersectional studies of Stevens.
Until recently, Wallace Stevens’s oeuvre has gone largely neglected in studies of urbanism in literary modernism, as his verse mostly neglects the sweeping skylines often found in the poetry of more pronouncedly urban modernists. However, as seen in recent scholarship and as Daniel’s chapter demonstrates, Stevens was profoundly influenced by modern urbanization during his formative years in New York City and often turns to understated cityscapes as fit environments for his ongoing exploration of the right aesthetic relationship between reality and imagination. This chapter offers a brief study of Stevens’s urbanization of mind before providing a close reading of two major modes of urbanization throughout his works: a “dark,” antipoetic urbanization in which city architectures prevent contact with nature and community, thereby also preventing the creation of vibrant poetry, and an organic, aesthetic urbanization where cities are sites of poetic inspiration and surprising connection with the more-than-human world. Rather than resolving this tension, Daniel proposes that Stevens’s vacillation between these two modes is itself characteristic of the multiform and often ambivalent ways the poet engaged with modern urbanism.
In recent years, the poetry of Wallace Stevens has begun to attract the attention of scholars in cognitive literary studies as well. Starr’s chapter offers a cognitive analysis of two aesthetic modes in Stevens’s poetry. The first of these is disruption, in which Stevens violates metrical expectations or creates perceptual or cognitive disorientation. The second involves the manipulation of pleasure (either that represented in the poem or that which might be generated in readers) to call attention to formal features of a poem, and at times to help new formal features emerge from a disorderly formal background.
In the concluding chapter, Skibsrud proposes to reactivate ethical questions implicit in Wallace Stevens’s work. Building on the work of scholars like Derek Attridge, William Waters, Rachel Cole, Mara Scanlon, and others, she argues for the lyric as an actual—rather than virtual—extension of subjectivity beyond a linear narrative frame. Skibsrud emphasizes Stevens’s interest in presenting poetry as an opportunity for engagement and interpretation, while simultaneously taking seriously his emphasis on the impasse of language and subjective perception. Through close readings of several poems taken from different moments in his career, this final chapter acts both as testament to and an argument for the capacity of lyric to express the nonlinear, fundamentally poetic, relation between language and truth, self and other.
This chapter explores Wallace Stevens’s understanding of the secular condition and the terms he cultivated to describe it. Familiar words from Stevens’s lexicon—“reality,” “imagination,” “the earth,” “repetition”—are linked to his vision of secularity. Mutter argues that this vision of the secular is highly dramatic: though Stevens viewed secularity as a condition of both deprivation and liberation, he transforms loss into a tragic theater in which the self is thrown into hostile territory and must depend on its own resources. The chapter suggests that while Stevens was enticed by the secular model of the real as a domain of neutral, impersonal fact, as his career progressed he increasingly recognized that secular reality was itself an imaginative construal. This recognition is linked to Stevens’s effort to rehabilitate, for his secular anthropology, the imaginative human capacities that historically generated religious ideas. Finally, the chapter elaborates Stevens’s understanding of play as a central mode of his secularism. Play reconciles the secular values of freedom and sensuousness with the discordant necessity of the world. Mutter concludes by observing an ongoing tension in Stevens’s view of desire between the good of immanence and the need for transcendence.
In this chapter on “Constructive Disorderings,” Eyers argues that Wallace Stevens subtly eludes our most common ways of treating literature. Where many scholars today reflexively adopt a historicist-contextualist approach to literature, Stevens, Eyers argues, instead produces a rather more uncanny, and more powerful, approach to historical time. Focusing in particular on “Of Mere Being” and “The Idea of Order at Key West,” Eyers locates in this verse repeated scenes of historical-temporal “afterwardsness,” whereby what would seem to have come first in fact came later, and where what one would have expected to follow on is instead shown to have been there all along. Far from resulting in mere disorder, however, such instances, when read closely and associatively, bring into being a singular poetic logic of historical time and, further, a radical rerouting of our expectations about modernism.
This chapter assesses Wallace Stevens’s relationship and relevance to world literature under Pascale Casanova’s rubric of the “two orders,” political and aesthetic, that constitute the “world literary space.” Jenkins’s chapter argues that Stevens’s involvement in the global cultural marketplace and his defense of poetic autonomy, his projection of his poetry as a world in itself, are not incompatible but mutually constitutive of his complex relationship to world literature. The chapter explores Stevens’s orientalism and his reception, in translation, in contemporary Chinese poetry and in the Anglophone world poetries of Kashmiri American and Iranian American poets Agha Shahid Ali and Roger Sedarat. The chapter concludes with a consideration of Stevens’s significance, in translation, for contemporary Italian poets like Valerio Magrelli, and of his mixed reception in postwar British and Irish poetry.
Epstein’s chapter challenges the tendency to overlook the significance of Wallace Stevens—and his characteristic idiom, poetics, and philosophical concerns—to the postwar avant-garde movement known as the New York School of poets. This neglect of Stevens as an important precursor causes problems in both directions: it unnecessarily limits our sense of New York School poetry, which can too easily be reduced to a chatty, pop-culture-infused poetry of urban daily life, while simultaneously reinforcing the distorted image of Stevens as a stuffy, backward-looking aesthete, devoted solely to abstraction and imagination. Epstein suggests that, for all their differences, Stevens and the New York School poets share a great deal: an obsession with painting and a passion for all things French; a delight in wordplay and the sensuous surfaces of language; an anti-foundational skepticism toward fixity in self, language, or idea; and, perhaps most of all, an embrace of the imagination and deep attraction to the surreal combined with a devotion to the ordinary and everyday.
When we think of Wallace Stevens and the question of ecological poetics, we probably are drawn to think of what he called his poetic “mundo”: a poetic universe structured by the turning of the seasons, which themselves correspond to distinct philosophical and phenomenological stances. The world of summer, for example, is a world of fecund imagination creating the world anew, while the world of winter is a world of “decreation” and contraction, a return to “things as they are.” We can get a radically different view of Stevens as an ecological poet, however, if we deploy a concept of environment that is more scientifically contemporary, one that foregrounds the dynamic co-implication and co-production of organism and environment in all its contingency, as highlighted in the contemporary biology of perception and cognition as we find it in figures such as Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. In this light, the ecological dimension of Stevens’s poetry may be located in the fact that his poetics enacts the same “operating program,” with all its attendant paradoxes, of autopoietic living systems, rather than engaging in a representational relationship to what we used to call “nature.”
Though a prominent strand of Wallace Stevens studies argues that his poetry has neither a sense of the interpersonal nor any actual human audience to speak of, recent critics are at last taking Stevens seriously as a poet of community—a key word in recent work by several critics and a peripheral or secret subject in countless other studies. Questions of community and audience, Spaide finds, have helped these critics to reconceive both “the poem of the idea” and “the poem of the words”: critics drawn to the former have focused on Stevens’s historical and personal crises, political philosophy, aesthetics, place, and affect; those drawn to the latter have focused on Stevens’s diction, genres, forms, speakers, and lyric pronouns. Community and audience, for Stevens, are always counterbalanced by their others—individuality, impersonality, inhuman nature, aesthetic autonomy. Closing on a reading of “The Sick Man” (1950), Spaide concludes that Stevens’s truest subject is not community, not individuality, but the never-settled contest between the two.
What happens when, with the knowledge and insights gained from queer studies and relevant biographical and historical scholarship, one tries to resituate Stevens not only within the aesthetic circles that may be drawn around his work but also and especially within the social circles in which he moved during his lifetime, and the poetic circles of those who have been attracted to his writings? To diversify the types of scholarship presented in The New Wallace Stevens Studies, Eeckhout’s chapter tilts more toward the biographical than other chapters do. From the new modernist studies, its investigation derives an interest in social networks at the expense of a narrow focus on self-reliant individuals; from queer studies, it borrows a fundamentally querying spirit about sexual identities and desires. Eeckhout offers a bird’s-eye survey of Stevens’s most significant queer precursors, contemporaries, and heirs, paying particular attention to the latter two groups. As case studies, he singles out Stevens’s friendships with George Santayana and José Rodríguez Feo, in which not-knowing played a central role, and the attractiveness of his licensing the fictive imagination to poets such as James Merrill and Richard Howard.
Apart from three early experiments in playwriting, Wallace Stevens was almost entirely a poet. Yet the fact that Stevens positioned himself so adamantly in the realm of poetry and kept away from the art of the novel does not mean he did not ponder questions of aesthetic affinity. In a 1948 letter, for instance, he shared his perspective on Marcel Proust: “The only really interesting thing about Proust that I have seen recently is something that concerned him as a poet. It seems like a revelation, but it is quite possible to say that that is exactly what he was and perhaps all that he was.” When we consider Proust’s use of similes as well as the way Proust intertwines his studies of the senses, time, and the resources of memory in his monumental work, we begin to grasp Stevens’s appreciation of the French novelist. Goldfarb’s chapter amplifies Proust’s presence in Stevens in three segments: the first addresses Stevens’s relation to modernist fiction; the second probes Stevens’s insight into Proust’s writing style; the third focuses on Proustian echoes in Stevens’s verse, particularly on the interlacing themes of the senses, time, and memory in shorter poems across different volumes.
The New Wallace Stevens Studies introduces a range of fresh voices and promising topics to the study of this great American poet. It is organized into three sections. The first explores concepts that have begun to emerge in Stevens criticism: imperialism and colonialism, his politics of utopia, his ideas about community-building and audience, his secularism, and his transnationalism. The second section applies recent methodological and theoretical advances that have left a prominent mark on literary studies - from world literature and ecocriticism to urban studies, queer studies, intersectional thinking, and cognitive literary studies. Essays in the third section reassess issues that have long inspired critics. Here investigations include Stevens's reception by later poets, his attitude toward modern fiction, different modes of his poetic thinking, aspects of his rhetoric and style, and his lyrical ethics. This volume captures a cross-section of the most striking recent developments in Stevens criticism.