Modernism from Right to Left: Wallace Stevens, the Thirties, & Literary Radicalism

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Juni 2005



Part biography and part literary history, this book is about the experience of the American modernist poet Wallace Stevens in the 1930s. Stevens is generally thought to have antagonized, even enraged, the young literary radicals of the period; his long poem, "Owl's Clover", has been generally understood as a negative, even bitter response to leftist aesthetics. Using the archives of many little-known political poets, Alan Filreis offers a detailed description of various literary-political battles, in which the very texture of the positions taken up in the movement between left and right becomes available to us in the language of the participants. Filreis demonstrates that radicals knew and appreciated modernism more than has been recognized, and that Stevens's poetry - as well as that of other then-eminent modernists - was significantly influenced by poets and critics on the Left. Modernism from Right to Left shows that the interactions between eminent modernists - Stevens, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams - and upstart radicals - Stanley Burnshaw, T.C. Wilson, Ruth Lechlitner, Kenneth Fearing, Muriel Rukeyser, Willard Maas, and others - were far more dynamic than has been acknowledged during and beyond the eras of anticommunism. This book is a contribution to the cultural history of the American 1930s as well as a novel approach to an oft-studied figure.


List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Abbreviations; Introduction; 1. Which side are you on?; Part I. Arrogations: 2. The poet and the depression; 3. What superb mechanics; Part II. Convergences: 4. The rage for order; 5. Turmoil in the middle ground: politicizing the lyric; 6. Toward a rhyming of opposites: 'Owl's Clover'; 7. A million people on one string; Notes; Index.


'A masterpiece of brilliant research and fresh analysis, Modernism from Right to Left is also a compelling conceptual breakthrough launching the study of mid-20th century U.S. poetry on an entirely new course. In a hitherto unprecedented synthesis, Alan Filreis reinscribes a major canonical figure in the context of a 1930s leftwing poetry renaissance that has been largely obscured, ignored, and caricatured. He thus returns to history the contributions of many previously 'lost' writers, as well as reconfiguring the terrain of vital politico-cultural debates that nurtured, stimulated and troubled the mind and imagination of Wallace Stevens.' Alan Wald, University of Michigan 'Modernism from Right to Left is a work of criticism with which historians - as well as literary critics - will have to come to terms. Focused on Wallace Stevens in the 1930s, it tells a painstakingly researched story about the endlessly (and sometimes surprisingly) dialectical relationship of radicalism and modernism at large. No one interested in the politics of poetry can afford to ignore this book.' James Longenbach, University of Rochester 'This is an indispensable book, not only for scholars of Wallace Stevens and modernism, but for anyone interested in reading lyric poetry within a rich historical and political context. Filreis has done an extraordinary amount of original research into what he calls 'circles of reputation and response' in the literary-political wars of the thirties. His research amounts to a kind of 'thick description' of these battles, in which the very texture of the various positions taken up in the shuttling between left, right, and middle becomes available to us in the language of the participants. Filreis shows how little agreement there was among thirties radicals on questions of aesthetic criteria. Surprisingly, he also demonstrates the importance of Stevens to all sides in the debate. From now on, nobody can write about these issues without consulting Filreis's lucid, engaging and comprehensive book.' Charles Berger, University of Utah
EAN: 9780521619400
ISBN: 0521619408
Untertitel: 'Cambridge Studies in American'. Pbk. Sprache: Englisch.
Erscheinungsdatum: Juni 2005
Seitenanzahl: 396 Seiten
Format: kartoniert
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