By Tony Sharpe (auth.)
Tony Sharpe explores the symbiotic and adversarial kinfolk among Stevens's literary lifestyles and his operating lifestyles as assurance government, outlining the non-public, old and publishing contexts that formed his writing occupation, and suggesting how know-how of those contexts throws new gentle at the poems. during this appreciative yet no longer uncritical learn, Sharpe attempts to determine the fellow at the back of the mandarin, while last alert to the challengingly luxurious austerities of 1 of America's most important poets.
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Extra info for Wallace Stevens: A Literary Life
To make a new intelligence prevail' (CP 37). These 'fellows' are t he Eme rso n ian 'fathers', his literary precursors; and Stevens's formulation is an almost perfect illustration of the 'dual rhythm' of American art-activity, expounded almost simultaneously by Law rence. The poem 'Celie Qui Fut Heaulmiette' (CP 438), with its Vi1lonesque titie, seems to address many of the issues so far touc h ed on, and can be read as a poem about the stage immediately following that radical reductiveness whic h was considerably earlier in Stevens's career - the closing note of 'The Snow Man'.
For although its firs t section starts with the imperiously unambiguous ' Begin, ephebe, ... ', this has been preceded by eight prefa tory lines s tarting with 'And for what,.. ', printed underneath the title and d edica tion, and inevitably read first by all who encounter Notes: the poem is one in which it seems formally impossible to begin at the beginning. Other A m erican writers ha ve in various ways interrogated the myth of their nation's ' immaculate begi nning ' (CP 382): H awthorne, in The Scarlet Lefler (1850), found that from the o utset the New World had required O ld World appurtenances s u ch a s gaol and cemete ry; and a t the end of The Great Gatsby (1925) Fitzgerald has Nick Carrawa y imagine the Dutch sa ilors' first s ig hti ng of the ' fresh, green breast of the new world ': an irretrievable beginn ing that is also an e nding, as man com es ' face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder'.
Stevens's range of courses seems chosen to acquire a broad education in (principally) European cult ure - with a concentration on litera ture th at might be thought particularly approp riate for an aspi ring writer. For notwithstanding Garrett's aspersions on the seriousness of his son's literary ambitions, nor his expressed belief that going to Harvard meant the opportunity more quickly to advance oneself in the world, for Stevens, going to Harvard seems to have mean t embarking on the road to becoming a writer.