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Stevens, Wallace. (1879 - 1955).

W o r k

< influenced by British aestheticism > his earliest poetry

- a new way for American poetry: no regionalism, no patriotism, no use of vernacular x but: an adaptation of English literature to the American language

P o e t r y :

Harmonium (1923):

- his 1st collection, together with T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations and M. Moore’s Observations used to define the American modernism

(a) odd poems with odd titles: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

(b) seemingly conventional poems with odd titles: “The Comedian as the Letter C.”

(c) seemingly conventional poems with conventional titles x but: unconventional themes: “Sunday Morning”, a bold declaration of the death of God

(d) “Anecdote of the Jar”, a witty reversal of J. Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: the British poet’s painted marble urn in the British Museum x the American poet’s bare grey stoneware jar in the Tennessee wilderness

The Man With the Blue Guitar (1937):

- continues in establishing a style peculiar to him:

(a) seriousness of subject x gaiety of treatment

(b) laconic wit x sceptical, ironic, and whimsical humour

(c) a non-mimetic representation, bizarre subjects (clownish people), and a great imagination

(d) a language play: challenges the reader’s expectation, delights in obscure and strange words, and concentrates on the word

Owl's Clover (1936) and Parts of a World (1942):

- examines social issues, including the war in Ethiopia, WW II, etc. x but: achieves no stylistic success

Collected Poems (1955):

- considered this collection ‘the planet on the table’ = the whole world in a reduced form

- by the end of his life recognised as a major poet, won the Pulitzer Prize

P r o s e :

The Necessary Angel (1951) and Opus Posthumous (1957, posthum.):

- collections of essays outlining his theory of poetry:

(a) = a means to transfer imagination to reality: fictional elements introduced by poetry become real by the very fact they are given names

(b) = a substitute for God in the world where God was already dismissed


(Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    Wallace Stevens. (1879 - 1955). American.
  • Work

    Poet. Author of The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937).
  • Genre



Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.


"Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame".

The argument from "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman" in Harmonium (1923).


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