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A new study of the major poems of Wallace Stevens, which have been very influential both in accounts of American modernism and on later poetries. The book aims to address the issue of Stevens’ resistance to varieties of critical practice and to provide new information about the influence on his work of European and American aesthetics.
The book charts Stevens’ poetic career through the composition of his major long poems. A number of different critical contexts and methods are applied (polemical, archival, biographical, aesthetic and bibliographic) as they are most relevant to differing stages of Stevens’ career. The influence on his work of European theories of ‘pure poetry’, nineteenth-century American painting and idealism and the aesthetics of Benedetto Croce are elucidated.
The study takes close account of Stevens’ reading, and examines some of the key annotations he made in his own books. Early versions of the poems in manuscript and typescript are examined in order to discover Stevens’ practice of composition. Stevens’ changing techniques and ideas are traced as they developed throughout his career. The book also takes account of Stevens’ influence on later poets in America, and discusses the often-made accusation of the lack of explicit political or social engagement in his work.
‘Tim Morris’s study offers a fresh, and a radical account of Stevens’ major works. It re-opens the question of his aestheticism through a synergy of elegant writing and close reading, that moves with an enviable grace and clarity, out into the wider vistas of Modernist politics, and philosophy. Of evident value to students of Stevens’ poetry, this book is also a suggestive illustration of the varied legacy of Romanticism, and its continuing power to shape our, as well as Stevens’, ‘world of words’.’ —Geoff Ward