Modernism from Right to Left: Wallace Stevens, the Thirties & Literary Radicalism

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Cambridge University Press, 1994 - Literary Criticism - 376 pages
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Part biography and part literary history, this book is about the experience of the American modernist poet Wallace Stevens in the 1930s. Stevens is generally thought to have antagonized, even enraged, the young literary radicals of the period; his long poem, "Owl's Clover", has been generally understood as a negative, even bitter response to leftist aesthetics. Using the archives of many little-known political poets, Alan Filreis offers a detailed description of various literary-political battles, in which the very texture of the positions taken up in the movement between left and right becomes available to us in the language of the participants. Filreis demonstrates that radicals knew and appreciated modernism more than has been recognized, and that Stevens's poetry - as well as that of other then-eminent modernists - was significantly influenced by poets and critics on the Left. Modernism from Right to Left shows that the interactions between eminent modernists - Stevens, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams - and upstart radicals - Stanley Burnshaw, T.C. Wilson, Ruth Lechlitner, Kenneth Fearing, Muriel Rukeyser, Willard Maas, and others - were far more dynamic than has been acknowledged during and beyond the eras of anticommunism. This book is a contribution to the cultural history of the American 1930s as well as a novel approach to an oft-studied figure.
  

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Contents

Which Side Are You On?
12
The Poet and the Depression
49
What Superb Mechanics
113
The Rage for Order
139
Politicizing the Lyric
180
Owls Clover
220
A Million People on One String
248
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About the author (1994)

Alan Filreis is Kelly Professor of English, faculty director of the Kelly Writers House, and director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of three other books, including "Modernism from Right to Left: Wallace Stevens, the Thirties, and Literary Radicalism".

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