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by James Longenbach
Download Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things fb2
History & Criticism
  • Author:
    James Longenbach
  • ISBN:
    0195070224
  • ISBN13:
    978-0195070224
  • Genre:
  • Publisher:
    Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 31, 1991)
  • Pages:
    356 pages
  • Subcategory:
    History & Criticism
  • Language:
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    1820 kb
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    1178 kb
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    1280 kb
  • Rating:
    4.1
  • Votes:
    454
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Longenbach has crafted a strong personal interpretation of Stevens' poetry that deserves a place among the half-dozen .

Longenbach has crafted a strong personal interpretation of Stevens' poetry that deserves a place among the half-dozen major studies of Stevens on our shelves. -Wallace Stevens Journal. An intelligent in-depth study. -Ken Norris, University of Maine. This distinguished book sets forth the Stevens that we will be reading for at least the next three decades: a Stevens in close touch with political and social conditions, a Stevens whose poetry arises from the texture of his times.

Dive deep into James Longenbach's Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things with extended analysis .

To a plain sense of things. It is as if. We had come to an end of the imagination, Inanimate in an inert savoir. It is difficult even to choose the adjective. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Source: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf, 1954). More About this Poem. More Poems by Wallace Stevens.

Wallace Stevens the poet and Wallace Stevens the insurance executive .

However, the idea that Stevens lived a double life, the author maintains, is misleading.

James Longenbach is an American critic and poet. His early critical work focused on modernist poetry, namely that of Ezra Pound, . Yeats, and Wallace Stevens, but has come to include contemporary poetry as well. Longenbach has published four books of poems: Threshold, Fleet River, Draft of a Letter, and The Iron Key. One recent book of criticism, The Resistance to Poetry, has been described as a "compact and exponentially provocative book. This compelling book uncovers what Stevens liked to think of as his "ordinary" life, a life in which the demands of politics, economics, poetry, and everyday distractions coexisted, sometimes peacefully and sometimes not.

But Longenbach argues that Stevens lived no such double life

But Longenbach argues that Stevens lived no such double life. By examining a full range of Stevens' writing in the context of American political and intellectual history, Longenbach's book reveals for the first time a poet who was not only aware of events taking place around him but whose work was often inspired by those events. While the focus is on Stevens, and the historical events and ideological debates around him, poets like Eliot, Williams, Marianne Moore, and Burke are also examined. Format Paperback 352 pages.

Wallace Stevens the poet and Wallace Stevens the insurance executive: for more than one critical generation it has seemed as if these two men were unacquainted--that Stevens was a poet who existed only in the rarefied world of language. However, the idea that Stevens lived a double life, the author maintains, is misleading. This compelling book uncovers what Stevens liked to think of as his "ordinary" life, a life in which the demands of politics, economics, poetry, and everyday distractions coexisted, sometimes peacefully and sometimes not. Examining the full scope of Stevens's career (from the student-poet of the nineteenth century to the award-winning poet of the Cold War years), Longenbach reveals that Stevens was not only aware of events taking place around him, but often inspired by those events. The major achievements of Stevens's career are shown to coalesce around the major historical events of his lifetime (the Great Depression and two World Wars); but Longenbach also dwells on Stevens's two extended periods of poetic silence, exploring the crucial aspects of Steven's life that were not exclusively poetic. Longenbach demonstrates that through Stevens's work in surety law he was far more intimately acquainted with legal and economic concerns than most poets, and he consequently thought deeply about the strengths--and, equally important, the limitations--of poetry as a social product and force.

Whilingudw
James Longenbach's The Plain Sense of Things,about the poet Wallace Stevens,is as perceptible as most anything written about Stevens -- the poet who assails the real sense of things with a high level of mental acuity. Longenbach is undeterred by the Stevensian mystique -- wading right on to the hallowed ground of poetic genius. Stevens is part of that domain, fearful as it is, without reservation. Longenbach, is aware that the "PlainSense of Things" is an anomaly of huge proportions. It comes through with some clarity only to those who have undergone the tough mental training necessary to understanding anything Wallace Stevens writes -- such as you will find in a variety of books available through Amazon.
Mavegar
At $70, only a fool or a trustfundbunny of pathological pretentiousness would buy it. Too bad, I can only suppose.
Moonworm
James Longenbach has the qualifications to pontificate; and from on high, the humanity to, at times, say something we are grateful to hear; but clearly he covers himself, and exposes Wallace Stevens, with the preferably invisible regalia of academia. The main business of his sermon is probably not to help us understand his subject. Before the pulpit, we are distracted by fretful footwork with soldiers and politics; and not enough appropriation of the poet's gaudy cloths. I dream of critics who would help me describe how it is that the effects that make words popular or famous, actually work their magic. I want to slip off the creamy peignoirs and the icy damask corsets of Wallace Stevens, to see the muse in all her glory, and to see the poet for what he is; and by this to raise the poet in me; to work over Stevens until, like his Crispin "nothing of himself remained". The danger is that now, having come so far without Gillette, we aren't going to see her burning bush. After criticism as difficult to read as this: what forgiveness? Without that ice-cream sideboard runner embroidered with fantails to cover his nonsense, we've paid for Longenbach to give The Emperor a "back, crack and sack".

Like R P Blackmur, Longenbach recognizes too that the very act of selectively explaining the details of a work of art must limit and thereby to an extent falsify the work: ''No feature of a body of poetry can be as important as it seems in discussion.''

There are "critics" of Wallace Stevens like Beverley Maeder, and I guess Frank Lentricchia who, writing about Stevens, are more difficult to follow than Stevens himself. With friends like this, and without Hansel, leading us to the sugared house in the woods, who needs wicked witches?
I say I "guess" Frank Lentricchia; because why would I want to read Lentricchia? Longenbach (Page 163) gives an example of his expatiation: "fluidity, or undecidability, of the symbol is not ...the sign of its social and political elusiveness but the ground of its historicity and of its flexible but also specific political significance and force." This passage, in the context of the quotation, means that "specific", when it also means "non-specific", is fluid; or in brief "fluid means fluid". Why should we trouble ourselves with such attacks on our time and our sanity? I imagine, it is these people (without myself, thankfully, having read too much of Beckett) who Samuel Beckett was insulting when he swore using the word "Critic!"
Both dead and undead, Maeder and Lentricchia, read and unread, have made out of themselves gingerbread houses, egotistical sublimes, whose roof-tiles we break off and eat, because faced with the dark forest of Wallace Stevens himself, we are hungry. What dark force lives inside such fair-faced dwellings?

John Serio's free online concordance of the works of Wallace Stevens is the greatest asset to anyone interested in finding his way into the dark wood and out of Eliot's grimpen. A way is marked for boys like me, or Hansel, to walk in the dark holding the hand of a young girl. Serio is serious gold, where all other works of criticism associated with the name of Wallace Stevens, though serviceable at times, are base metal.
James Longenbach, runs away with himself as I do myself, and on the Liverpool Care Pathway the crumbs run out; as they did for Helen Vendler and have done for dear old Harold Bloom; both as I write, I guess not long for this life; but James is worth reading. If for nothing else: when talking about "Ideas of Order at Key West" he states categorically, and very helpfully, that Ramon Fernandez himself was a real live critic. Understanding James Longenbach we can read the famous line as: "Ramon Fernandez, tell me if [as you say] you know ...."

But what does "Ideas of Order at Key West" really mean?

Try this and see if it helps. One poet to another.
The word "SHE" appears sixteen times in this short (for Stevens) poem. The word SEA appears seven times. When reading the poem substitute the word "she" every time with the sound that even Socrates heard walking by The Aegean; that "Shhh" sound repeating; the essence of Arnold's Dover Beach.
This sound is what the poem is "about". The sound repeated endlessly sounds like a word. If it is a word, what then does it mean? The meaning of the word is "she", a feminine presence, and you can sense this in the poem with the particular iteration in the poem of the almost invisible word "her". First comes the sound, then the meaning. This is an idea of order. After that there is the effect of the meaning; an effect follows the faint understanding of the imagination. This effect is the third thing. One Two Three. An idea of order. A B C, sea... See?

The comedienne as the letter C. So the poem begins :
"Shhh sang beyond the genius of the sea."
THE SONG AND WATER WERE NOT MEDLEYED SOUND
They were not separate songs, abbreviated and presented one after the other, in a medley. They were the same thing.

"And for what, except for you, do I feel love?" The recently outdated "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM4-TR)" describes the psychiatric condition "Asperger's Syndrome"; the two words coined by its compilers, with an arrogance bordering on the condition itself. No empathy is the hallmark of Asperger's Syndrome. Stevens' austere sense of self-worth to the detriment of all other humanity is the hallmark of the condition. It is a derangement of the most brilliant minds. Stevens felt "love" only for his own supreme fiction. He rarely stooped in any of his dealings with his fellow man, particularly if they were black, and to have offered clarification on his purposefully obscure texts would have been lowering himself. If we feel pity for the man that is because, unlike him, we are normal.