About This Course  About David Lavery  Texts  Seminarians  Course Requirements  Power Points  Agenda

Quick Links:  Stevens on the Web  Stevens Photos  Wallace Stevens Wiki  Stevens Bibliography  Stevens Book Covers  A Wallace Stevens Timeline  Images from Stevens World  Benjamin Lee Whorf  Charles Ives



Dr. David Lavery

Office: PH 316 | Office Hours: M and W 9-11 am; 1-3 pm; T 9-11; 1-4 pm; Th 10-11; 1-4 pm | E-mail: david.lavery@gmail.com | Office Phone/Voice-Mail: 615-898-5648 | Home Page: http://davidlavery.net/

Dr. David Lavery is Director of Graduate Studies and Professor in the English Department at Middle Tennessee State University (1993- ). The recipient of the University's 2006 Distinguished Research Award, he is the author of over one hundred and fifty published essays, chapters, and reviews and the author / co-author / editor / co-editor of twenty-one books, including Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers, TV Goes to Hell: An Unofficial Road Map of Supernatural, The Essential Cult Television Reader, and The Essential Sopranos Reader. The co-convener of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the work of Joss Whedon and The Sopranos; co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association and its journal Slayage and founding editor of Critical Studies in Television, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany), been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica (Portugal), Information (Netherlands), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today, and from 2006-2008 taught film and television at Brunel University in London. He is currently working on a book entitled: Like Light: Wallace Stevens' Creative Work.



Required Texts

Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page or order online from any other seller. Available on the WSRDVD. Available on the WSRDVD. Hereafter WSRDVD. Provided on first day of class. Available as an Electronic Resource on the Walker Library Website (click on the cover).

Optional Texts

Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page or order online from any other seller. Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page or order online from any other seller. Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page or order online from any other seller. Available as an Electronic Resource on the Walker Library Website (click on the cover). Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page or order online from any other seller.

For Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose, Voices and Visions, Parts of a World, Charles Ives Remembered, Letters of Wallace Stevens, click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page or order online from any other seller. The Wallace Stevens Resource DVD will be given to you at the first class meeting (Musing the Obscure can be found on the WSRDVD). A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens and Language, Thought, and Reality are both available as electronic resources on the Walker Library Website (click on the cover to access).

Voices & Visions Home

Elizabeth Bishop | Hart Crane | Emily Dickinson | T. S. Eliot | Robert Frost | Langston Hughes | Robert Lowell | Marianne Moore | Sylvia Plath | Ezra Pound | Wallace Stevens | Walt Whitman | William Carlos Williams



About This Course

When I first taught this seminar in the summer of 1994, I thought of it as a "full immersion" approach to Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), one of the most difficult and demanding poets imaginable and now considered to be one of the major poets in English of the 20th Century. In a new, radical approach to acquiring a foreign language (pioneered, I believe, by Middlebury College in Vermont), students were locked in a dorm for a set period of time and required to "immerse" themselves completely in the language they sought to acquire, giving up English, plunging, sink or swim, into Spanish, French, German, etc. To learn to read Stevens, I theorized, we would need to approach his masterful poetry as a kind of foreign language. We will use a similar approach this semester. Each seminarian earned a diploma certifying his/her fluency at the end of the course. Go here to see a list of previous seminarians.

In this semester's reincarnation, we will (1) immerse ourselves in Stevens' poetry and prose; (2) read/perform Stuart Flack's wonderful play about an imaginary meeting between the poet and composer Charles Ives, like Stevens, a Connecticut resident, insurance executive, and quintessential modernist (an encounter which takes us behind the scenes of the always very private Stevens' home and marriage); (3) examine Stevens' life and work in relation to Ives' music and, as well, the "linguistic relativity" of his fellow Hartford employee, Benjamin Lee Whorf; (4) situate Stevens in the context of 20th Century American poetry by watching all of the PBS Voices and Visions documentaries on American poetry (all now available online); (5) contextualize Stevens' thinking and artistic achievement by considering each week a comparable/exemplary philosopher and painter.

Our text will be the Kermode/Richardson edited Library of America collection Stevens: Collected Poetry & Prose, which makes virtually everything we will need to read available in one volume.


Seminarians [Nincompated Pedagogues]

 William Brown   Khristeena Lute  Taffy O'Neal  Sarah Rivas  Aaron Shapiro  Greta Smith  Dennis Wise


Course Requirements

Reading: Please read all the poems (readings) listed on the syllabus before each class meeting.

Viewing: Please watch each week’s assigned Voices and Visions film (see the links for online viewing above) before class.

Writing: Completion of any two the following: [A] a study of a single Stevens poem; [B] a comparison/contrast of a Stevens poem and a painting by one of the painters on the syllabus (or another approved by me); [C] a study of a theme/issue/technique, etc. involving multiple Stevens poems; [D] an examination of Stevens' poetry in the broader context of modern culture: literature / art / painting / music / the movies / philosophy / poetry / history / linguistics / geography; or (more specifically) Stevens and Whorf / Stevens & Ives / Stevens & politics ; Stevens & Impressionism; Stevens & Imagism; Stevens & modernism; Stevens & Florida; Stevens & Bishop / Crane / Dickinson / Eliot / Hughes / Plath / Whitman / Lowell / Pound / Williams / Moore / Frost; [E] a book review of one of the books listed here.

Nota bene: one of these—your choice of A, B, C, D, E—will be a critical essay [CE] written from your own perspective and need not rely on secondary sources. Weight—30% of grade. The other [SP]—your choice of A, B, C, D—will be a source paper, incorporating the ideas and insights of other critics and scholars. Weight—50% of grade. Feel free to consult with me about your choice of topic(s). Length: CE—1500 words (MA students)/2,000 words (PhD students); SP—2000 words (M.A. students/4,000 words (Ph.D. students). Due: One—your choice—by midnight, March 21; a second—your choice—by midnight, May 1. Submit via the appropriate D2L drop boxes.

Class Participation: [A] daily involvement in class discussion; [B] contributions to a Wallace Stevens Wiki [Go here to learn more. Your WSW assignments are here: Brown | Copeland | Lute | O’Neal | Rivas | Shapiro | Smith | Wise | Lavery]; [C] a 15 minute presentation on a Voices and Visions film (e-mail me ASAP your first choice; learn more about my expectations here). [D] other presentations as assigned. | Weight—20% of grade.



Power Points


 Weeks: Syllabus | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |  7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14  American Life and Casualty  Benjamin Lee Whorf  Charles Ives Stevens' Hartford   Stevens Letters  Poets: Bishop | Crane | Dickinson | Eliot | Frost | Hughes | Lowell | Plath | Pound | Whitman | Williams  Schools/Concepts, etc.: The Beat Movement | The French Symbolists | Geneva School | Imagism | The New Critics | The New York School of Poets | Reflections on Poetry




Class Meeting | Subject/Reading Assignments (pages in SCPP) | Requirements Due


[Links on the names of philosophers are to entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Links on the names of painters take you to entries in Mark Harden's Artchive. Links on the names of composers (unless otherwise specified) lead to San Francisco Classical Voice.]

Week 1 | January 22 | Introduction | Wallace Stevens: Man Made Out of Words (videotape from the PBS Voices and Visions series); Adagia 900 | Power Points: Syllabus | Week 1

Week 2 | January 29 | Domination of Black 7; The Snow Man 8; Le Monocle de Mon Oncle 10; Metaphors of a Magnifico 15; The Doctor of Geneva 19; On the Surface of Things 45; A High Toned Old Christian Woman 47; The Place of the Solitaires 47; The Curtains in the House of the Metaphysician 49; The Emperor of Ice Cream 50 | Major Poem: The Comedian as the Letter C 22 | Philosopher of the Week: William James | Painter of the Week: Paul Cezanne | Composer of the Week: Ludwig van Beethoven | Voices and Visions Film: Walt Whitman | Power Point: Week 2

Week 3 | February 5 | Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock 52; Six Significant Landscapes 58; Anecdote of the Jar 60; Life is Motion 65; Tattoo 64; To the One of Fictive Music 70; Peter Quince at the Clavier 72; Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird 74; The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad 81; Sea Surface Full of Clouds 82; The Idea of Order at Key West 105; The Sun This March 108; Evening Without Angels 111 | Major Poem: Sunday Morning 53 | Philosopher of the Week: Plato | Painter of the Week: Claude Monet | Composer of the Week: Gustav Mahler | Voices and Visions Film: Emily Dickinson | Power Point: Week 3 | Recording of Class

Week 4 | February 12 | Poetry Is a Destructive Force 178; The Poems of Our Climate 179; Study of Two Pears 180; The Glass of Water 181; The Man on the Dump 184; On the Road Home 186; The Latest Freed Man 187; Anything is Beautiful If You Say It Is 191; Connoisseur of Chaos 194; The Sense of the Sleight-of-Hand Man 205; Of Modern Poetry 218; Landscape with Boat 220; Woman Looking at a Vase of Flowers 223 | Major Poem: The Man with the Blue Guitar 135 | Philosopher of the Week: Rene Descartes | Painter of the Week: Pablo Picasso | Composer of the Week: Claude Debussy | Voices and Visions Film: Robert Frost [Presentation by Dennis Wise] | Power Point: Week 4

Week 5 | February 19 | Mrs. Alfred Uruguay 225; Aside on an Oboe 226; Extracts from Addresses to the Academy of Fine Ideas 227; Phosphor Reading by His Own Light 240; The Motive for Metaphor 257; So-and-So Reclining on Her Couch 262;  Crude Foyer 270; The Creations of Sound 274; Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit 288; The Pure Good of Theory 289; A Word with José Rodriguez-Feo 292  | Major Poem: Chocorua to Its Neighbor 263 | Philosopher of the Week: George Berkeley | Painter of the Week: Vincent Van Gogh | Composer of the Week: Jean Sibelius | Voices and Visions Film: William Carlos Williams [Presentation by Khristeena Lute] | Power Point: Week 5

Week 6 | February 26 | Wallace Stevens and Benjamin Lee Whorf | Language, Thought, and Reality [selections--go here to see required reading]; "Imagination and Insurance: Wallace Stevens and Benjamin Lee Whorf at the Hartford"; "The Mind of Benjamin Lee Whorf" | Philosopher of the Week:  | Painter of the Week: Georges Seurat | Composer of the Week: Erik Satie | Voices and Visions Film: Ezra Pound | Power Point: Week 6

Week 7 | March 5 | Paisant Chronicle 283; Description without Place 296; Man Carrying Thing 306; A Completely New Set of Objects 307; Men Made Out of Words 309; Thinking of a Relation Between the Images of Metaphors 310; Chaos in Motion and Not in Motion 311; Credences of Summer 322 | Major Poem: Esthétique du Mal 277 | Philosopher of the Week: Søren Kierkegaard  | Painter of the Week: Henri Matisse | Composer of the Week: Arnold Schoenberg [Wikipedia] | Voices and Visions Film: Marianne Moore [Presentation by Sarah Rivas] | Power Point: Images from Stevens' World | Week 7

March 10-15 Spring Break

Week 8 | March 19 |  Charles Ives | American Life and Casualty  performed in class | Philosopher of the Week: David Hume & Immanuel Kant  | Painter of the Week: Edward Hopper | Composer of the Week: Ives | Voices and Visions Film: T. S. Eliot [Presentation by Will Brown] | Power Points:  Week 8 | American Life and Casualty | Ives | March 21: First Essay Due

Week 9 | March 26 | Major Poem: Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction 329 | Philosopher of the Week: Friedrich Nietzsche | Painter of the Week: Paul Klee | Composer of the Week: Béla Bartók | Voices and Visions Film: Hart Crane [Presentation by Aaron Shapiro] | Power Point: Week 9

Week 10 | April 2 | The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination 637-751 | Philosopher of the Week: Henri Bergson | Painter of the Week: Raoul Dufy | Composer of the Week: Maurice Ravel | Voices and Visions Film: Langston Hughes [Presentation by Dawn Copeland] | Power Point: Week 10

Week 11 | April 9 | Large Red Man Reading 365; This Solitude of Cataracts 366; The Ultimate Poem is Abstract 369; The Owl in the Sarcophagus 371; Saint John and the Back-Ache 375; A Primitive Like an Orb 377; Metaphor as Degeneration 381; What We See is What We Think 392; Angel Surrounded by Paysans 423 | Major Poem: The Auroras of Autumn 355 | Philosopher of the Week: George Santayana | Painter of the Week: Marc Chagall | Composer of the Week: Igor Stravinsky | Voices and Visions Film: Elizabeth Bishop [Presentation by Taffy O’Neal] | Power Point: Week 11

Week 12 | April 16 | The Plain Sense of Things 428; Vacancy in the Park 434; The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain 435; Two Illustrations That the World is What You Make of It 435; Prologues to What is Possible 437; Looking Across the Fields and Watching the Birds Fly 439; The World as Meditation 441 | Major Poem: An Ordinary Evening in New Haven 399 | Philosopher of the Week: Ludwig Wittgenstein  |  Painter of the Week:  Joan Miro  | Composer of the Week: George Gershwin | Voices and Visions Film: Robert Lowell | Power Points: Week 12 | Gruber

Week 13 | April 23 | Uncollected Prose, Notebooks, Journals and Letters 755 | Painter of the Week: Chaim Soutine | Philosopher of the Week: Martin Heidegger  | Composer of the Week: Aaron Copland | Voices and Visions Film: Sylvia Plath  [Presentation by Greta Smith] | Power Point: Week 13

Week 14 | April 30 | Long and Sluggish Lines 442; A Quiet Normal Life 443; Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour 444; The Planet on the Table 450; The River of Rivers in Connecticut 451; Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself 451; A Clear Day and No Memories 475; Of Mere Being 476; First Warmth 597; As You Leave the Room 597 | Major Poem: The Rock 445 | Philosopher of the Week: Maurice Merleau-Ponty | Painter of the Week: Rene Magritte | Composer of the Week: Samuel Barber | Power Point: Week 14 | May 1: Second Essay Due

Week 15 | May 7 [Finals Week Meeting]