The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens

The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens

The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens

The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens

Excerpt

This is an interpretive study and, to a lesser extent, an evaluation. My method is exegesis, with the exception of the first chapter which is mainly cultural history. This is not a study of the poet as a craftsman but as a mind, and as a performer on a cultural stage. A thorough analysis of his formal accomplishments and his debt to specific poets would be a subject for another book, a needed book. I have proceeded thematically rather than chronologically, since the problems in Stevens criticism now are, to my mind, likely to concern what he is saying rather than how he has developed or changed. This approach is especially germane to Stevens since he is not only a difficult poet but a poet who does not have very different phases, as does Yeats. He does, of course, change, but his changes are different ways of exploring the same themes, themes which are sufficiently complex to justify a lifetime's meditation. Though they are all present in Harmonium, these themes achieve expression, some of them fullest expression, well after Harmonium. Yet it is significant that Stevens contemplated calling his volume of collected poems The Whole of Harmonium.

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