The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens

By Daniel Fuchs | Go to book overview

Chapter 3: The Sacred Irreverence of Wallace Stevens

When we say that poetry is modern we mean two things. First, that it is a new poetry, one which stands in opposition to poetry which has come before it and receives much of its creative impetus from its flouting the attitudes implicit in the old poetry. This is what we may call the absolute sense of the word modern. Donne, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Whitman were modern poets. The author of "The Comedian as the Letter C" is modern in this sense. He blames some of the failures of the present on the fictions of the past, fictions which seem to him caricatures of the meaning they once possessed. But he is also modern in the second sense of the word, the historical sense. Stevens' poetry is characteristic of recent times, the past fifty years. It is concerned with the breakdown of belief, the moral wasteland, the pressures of materialistic realties on the life of the imagination. Twentieth-century poetry

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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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