ENGL 6330/7330
Major American Writers: Wallace Stevens

Spring 2014

Days: W | Room: PH 301 | Time: 600-900

Under Construction

About This Course About David Lavery Texts Seminarians  Course Requirements Power Points Agenda  Websites, Links, Readings Stevens Photos Wallace Stevens Lexicon Bibliography MLA Bib Stevens and Painting  Stevens Timeline    Stevens's Hartford    Feigning with the Strange Unlike

Dr. David Lavery

Office: PH 316 | Office Hours: Office Hours: M and W 9-11 am; 1-3 pm; T and Th 9-11; 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 MTSU (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 on The Sopranos, co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association, and founding co-editor of the journals Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies, Critical Studies in Television, and Series/Season/Show, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany) and has 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. From 2006-2008, he taught at Brunel University in London.

1250-0310 pm, PH 303A
Required Texts
Optional Texts

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  
Click on the images above to go to the Amazon page for each book or order online from any other seller. You will also be reading Stuart Flack's play,
American Life and Casualty and Ronald Sukenick's Musing the Obscure (both available free by clicking on their covers to access a PDF) and watching the Voices and Visions documentaries on American Poetry. You will also be supplied with a Wallace Stevens Resource DVD.


About This Course

When I first taught this class 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 immerse ourselves in Stevens poetry and prose; we will read Stuart Flack's wonderful play about an imaginary meeting—an encounter which takes us behind the scenes of the always very private Stevens' home and marriage—between the poet and his fellow Connecticut resident, and fellow insurance executive, the modernist composer Charles Ives. Our text will be Kermode/Richardson edited Library of America collection Stevens: Collected Poetry & Prose, which makes virtually everything we will need to read available in one volume. In order to situate Stevens in the context of 20th Century American Poetry, students will watch all of the PBS Voices and Visions documentaries on American poetry, all now available online.


Course Requirements

Writing: Completion of any two the following: [A] a study of a single Stevens poem; [B] a study of a theme/issue/technique, etc. involving multiple Stevens poems; [C] an examination of Stevens' poetry in the broader context of modern literature/culture/art/philosophy/poetry/history/geography: Stevens and Whorf; Stevens & Ives; Stevens & politics; Stevens & Impressionism; Stevens & painting; Stevens & music; Stevens & the movies; Stevens & Imagism; Stevens & modernism; Stevens and Florida; Stevens & Pound/Williams/Moore/Frost; [D] A book review of one of the books listed here.

Nota bene: one of these (CE)—your choice of A, B, C, or Dwill be a critical essay written from your own perspective and need not rely on secondary sources. Weight30% of grade. The other (SP)—your choice of A, B, or Cwill be a source paper, incorporating the ideas and insights of other critics and scholars. Weight50% of grade. Feel free to consult with me about your choice of topic(s). Length: CE1500 words (MA students)/2,000 words (PhD students); SP2000 words (M.A. students/4,000 words (Ph.D. students). Due: Oneyour choiceby midnight, July 29; a secondyour choiceby midnight, August 8. Submit via the appropriate D2L drop boxes.

Class Participation: (1) daily involvement in class discussion; (2) a 15 minute presentation on a Voices and Visions film (e-mail me ASAP your first choice; learn more about my expectations here). (3) introduction to an example of television comedy of your choice. Each presenter will have a full hour for his/her presentation, which may include screening of a representative episode sample. Make your claim via e-mail; you may not, of course, choose any subject already appearing on this agenda; go here to learn more]; (4) other presentations as assigned. | Weight20% of grade.




Class Meeting | Subject/Reading Assignments (pages in SCPP) | Requirements Due
[Links on Stevens Titles Permit Access to a Power Point Version of the Poem]

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

Week 2 | January 29 | American Life and Casualty performed in class | Voices and Visions Film: Walt Whitman (1819-1892) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 3 | February 5 | 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 | Voices and Visions Film: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 4 | February 12 | 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 | Voices and Visions Film: Robert Frost (1874-1963) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 5 | February 19 | 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; The Latest Freed Man 187; Anything is Beautiful If You Say It Is 191; Connoisseur of Chaos 184; The Sense of the Sleight-of-Hand Man 205; Of Modern Poetry 218; Woman Looking at a Vase of Flowers 223; 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 | Major Poem: The Man with the Blue Guitar 135 | Voices and Visions Film: William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 6 | February 26 | Wallace Stevens and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Language, Thought, and Reality [1-133]; "Imagination and Insurance: Wallace Stevens and Benjamin Lee Whorf at the Hartford" (handout); "The Mind of Benjamin Lee Whorf" (handout) | The Benjamin Lee Whorf WWW Site | Voices and Visions Film: Ezra Pound (1885-1972) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 7 | March 5 | Stevens and Whorf (continued) | Language, Thought, and Reality (134-270) | Voices and Visions Film: Marianne Moore (1887-1972) [Presentation by: TBA]

March 10-15 Spring Break

Week 8 | March 19 | The Motive for Metaphor 257; So-and-So Reclining on Her Couch 262; Chocorua to Its Neighbor 263; 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; 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 | Voices and Visions Film: T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 9 | March 26 | The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination 637-751 | Voices and Visions Film: Hart Crane (1899-1932) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 10 | April 2 | Major Poem: Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction 329 | Voices and Visions Film: Langston Hughes (1902-1967) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 11 | April 9 | Large Red Man Reading 365; The 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 | Voices and Visions Film: Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) [Presentation by: TBA]

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 | Voices and Visions Film: Robert Lowell (1917-1977) [Presentation by: TBA]

Week 13 | April 23 | Uncollected Prose, Notebooks, Journals and Letters 755 | Voices and Visions Film: Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) [Presentation by: TBA]

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; First Warmth 597; As You Leave the Room 597 | Major Poem: The Rock 445

Week 15 | May 7 [Finals Week Meeting]