Contributions by: Geoff Ward
This revisionary study of Wallace Stevens queries the dominant interpretations of the poet's career. It redirects the reader's attention to the neglected achievement of Stevens' first book, HARMONIUM (1923), and examines the pluralism of these early poems in the context of current critical revaluations of modernisms. The poetry Stevens went on to write is interrogated with scepticism. In major focus here is the figure of the hero or Major Man in poems and prose written at the time of the Second World War. The book concludes with a revaluation of the different stance of Stevens' late poems, which are here read as poems of doubt, poems which retract Stevens own, will-bound poetic. Comparison is made with the late poems of W.B. Yeats, which also cast doubt over the poet's own, earlier achievements. The originality of this book lies in its new interpretation of Stevens, and in its British (and Irish) viewpoint. A principal contrubution is the extended discussion of Stevens' relationship with the Irish poet Thomas MacGreevy. Where other of Stevens' correspondents have critical studies devoted to their work, to date there has ben little analysis of MacGreevy and Stevens. This is the first British book on Stevens since Frank Kermode's WALLACE STEVENS (Faber, 1989). This and subsequent "controversial" Studies (Pennso, HARMONIUM AND THE WHOLE OF THE HARMONIUM; and Halliday, STEVENS AND THE INTERPERSONAL) are acknowledged in the broader discussion of current critical respeonses to Stevens.
Publication Date: 11/10/1999