Course meets during the first seven weeks only, First Class: January 23; Last Class: March 8.
Wallace Stevens holds an important place among modern American poets, and his work continues to exert a powerful influence on contemporary poets. Still, his readers continue to puzzle over Stevens’ work, especially as it relates to the most pervasive concerns of the twentieth century. In his poetry, Stevens tends to write little and indirectly about specific cataclysmic events of his time, yet his poetics, as enunciated in his prose, often rests on his understanding of the pressing questions of his day. In this course, we will take a close look at Stevens’ relationship to the twentieth century. While his poetry will be at the center of the class, we will focus our attention on how Stevens gives voice to the contradictions and complexities of the modern world. Stevens’ own work will be the main text of this course, yet readings will include contextual material drawn from literary criticism, intellectual history, philosophy, and politics. We will also consider the work of poets influenced by Stevens. Readings also may include poems and, in some cases, essays by John Ashbery, Edward Hirsch, Susan Howe, Adrienne Rich, Mark Strand, Tracy K. Smith, Maureen McLane, among others.