Department of English
Master of Arts
The purpose of this study is to show Wallace Stevens' intense valuation of the sensuous order of the universe through discussions of his various works and their criticism. Also, the love themes and spiritual convictions which result from the poet's emphasis upon the things of this world will be explored. The love theme especially has not received the attention it deserves from critics, and when properly recognized, it adds important dimension to the pattern of Stevens' themes. Chapter I of the thesis will be devoted to a discussion of Stevens' preoccupation with the physical world. Chapter II will treat Stevens' spiritual point of view, the attitudes which constitute the closest thing to faith in the religious sense. His spirituality often is indirectly stated and turns largely upon his belief (declared in "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour") that "God and the imagination are one." Chapter III will concentrate on the love theme in the poet's works, declared in such typical phrases as ". . . gusty emotions on wet roads on autumn nights," and " . . . next in glory to enduring love," from "Sunday Morning." This third chapter will include discussions of such poems as "0 Florida, Venereal Soil" and "Infanta Marina," two examples of many poems found which contain major instances of the love theme. Love is connected with a pervasive metaphor of "she" in many poems, "she" often representing the poet's affection for feminized physical realities such as the land and the sea. "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven, M in some ways the key Stevens poem, contains such significant remarks as this: "Say next to holiness is the will thereto, / And next to love is the desire for love, / The desire for its celestial ease in the heart." The love theme is indeed a major one for Stevens, and it needs to be explored. I have made the chapter on love my last chapter because it contains the most original aspect of my study. Critics seldom consider Stevens a love poet, and I hope to show that such an oversight is an injustice. I hope to prove that the love theme is a significant and important aspect of his treatment of the sensuous order. Of course I do not mean to imply that Chapter II, on the principle of faith in Stevens, is without originality. The atheism of Stevens has caused most critics to play dovm unfairly the spirituality he often asserts. His atheism is of the sort that is intended to be a comforting replacement for orthodoxy, and I hope to show that his faith is often very close to genuine religiosity, and that criticism should take note of that closeness. A generous number of his poems will be canvassed in my study, and a generous amount of critical commentary also. The prose and letters of Stevens will not be ignored either in this investigation of some of the poet's major themes.
English Language and Literature
Conway, Sheila, "The Sensuous Order, Faith and Love in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens" (1972). Masters Theses & Specialist Projects. Paper 1020.