The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens

By Daniel Fuchs | Go to book overview

Chapter 1: Stevens' Comic Milieu

Reading Stevens poses an immediate problem. The reader is dazzled by a display of verbal pyrotechnics, a shower of exotic colors, wondrous sound-effects, inkhorn words, hoo-hoos and rum-turn-tums, euphonious geography, exquisite insults. The reader may very well not survive his bedazzlement. Or, if he is spirited enough to indulge his imagination and see what it is that Stevens is doing, Stevens' ideas may prove to be even more disquieting than his formidable means of expressing them, and the poet go unread on that account. Stevens dares you to read him, and there was a time when few accepted the challenge. His brilliant first volume, Harmonium, published when he was forty-four years old, did not make nearly the stir in 1923, that it has been making since then. Ornate, bizarre, difficult, and middle-aged, it succeeded perhaps too well in dismaying the reader. It is the work of neither a young

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The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Chapter 1: Stevens' Comic Milieu 3
  • Chapter 2: "The Comedian as the Letter C 31
  • Chapter 3: the Sacred Irreverence of Wallace Stevens 62
  • Chapter 4: "This Venerable Complication" 94
  • Chapter 5: "The Ultimate Plato" 120
  • Chapter 6: "Paradise Unknown" 155
  • Selected Bibliography 193
  • Index 197
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