Inescapable choice : Wallace Stevens's new Romanticism and English romantic poetry
The aim of this thesis is to investigate how Stevens creates a new Romanticism. It argues that Stevens demonstrates a double view of Romanticism as having positive and negative aspects and it relates discussion of this double view to the development of his poetry and theories of poetry. Stevens shares with the Romantics the belief that through the power of imagination the problem of dualism - especially the split between art and existential reality - can be solved. Prom Stevens's perspective, thinking about what should be respected and what should be corrected in Romanticism provides grounds for the creation of his own new Romanticism. In chapters one and two, by examining the conflict between imagination and reality in the works of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, I explore the intertextual relations between Stevens and the Romantics from a perspective informed by the implications of Stevens's work and thought. In chapters three and four, focusing on Stevens's treatment of the relation between imagination and reality, I examine the nuanced differences between his work and that of the Romantics. Chapter five provides a prologue to 'Notes toward a Supreme Fiction', the culmination of Stevens's concern with imagination and reality. In the final chapter I examine how Stevens's new Romanticism, especially its emphasis on the imagination's activity, is concretised in 'Notes toward a Supreme Fiction'. I also explore how the later development of his sense of reality affects his poetic creativity. By examining the influence of the Romantics on Stevens and his response to them, the nature of his poetry can be more accurately understood. Throughout the thesis, I engage, as appropriate, with the work of many critics who have written on Stevens. It is my hope that my own approach gives a folly considered and detailed account of a topic often addressed more briefly by other commentators.