Early Stevens: The Nietzschean Intertext
In recent years Nietzsche has emerged as a presiding genius of our intellectual epoch. Although scholars have noted the influence of Nietzsche's thought on Wallace Stevens, the publication of Early Stevens establishes, for the first time, the extent to which Nietzsche pervades Steven's early work.
Concentrating on poems published between 1915 and 1935--but moving occasionally into later poems, as well as letters and essays--B. J. Leggett draws together texts of Stevens and Nietzsche to produce new and surprising readings of the poet's early work. For instance, "Peter Quince at the Clavier" is read in the light of Nietzsche's discussion of Apollonian and Dionysian art in The Birth of Tragedy; Stevens' early poems on religion, including principally "Sunday Morning," are seen through the perspective of Nietzsche's doctrines of the transvaluation of values, genealogy, and the innocence of becoming; Stevens' notions of femininity, virility, and poetry are examined in relation to Nietzsche's texts on gender and creativity. This intertextual critique reveals previously undisclosed ideologies operating at the margins of Stevens' work, enabling Leggett to read aspects of the poetry that have until now been unreadable.
Early Stevens also considers such issues as Stevens' perspectivism, his aphoristic style, the Nietzschean epistemology of his poems of order, and the implications of notions of art, untruth, fiction, and interpretation in both Stevens and Nietzsche.
Though many critics have discussed the concept of intertextuality, few have attempted a truly intertextual reading of a particular poet. Early Stevens is an exemplary model of such a reading, marking a significant advance in both the form and substance of our understanding of this quintessential modern poet.
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Stevens Reading Nietzsche
Apollonian and Dionysian
Art and Untruth
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