The Never-Resting Mind: Wallace Stevens Romantic Irony

ISBN 10: 0472106597 / ISBN 13: 9780472106592
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Synopsis: The Never-Resting Mind explores Wallace Stevens' poetic use and transformation of a major strain of romantic thought. Romantic irony, a philosophical attempt to explain the mind's ability to both construct the world and see beyond its own constructions, was first theorized in the late eighteenth century by Friedrich Schlegel. An opposing view of the concept emerged in attacks on Schlegel's theory by Hegel and Kierkegaard. This study describes the complex expression of these antithetical senses of irony--one that gestures toward engagement, the other toward transcendence--in Stevens' work, in the work of contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, and in postmodern authors such as Barthelme and Ashberry.
Beginning with a thorough outline of the debates about romantic irony that the twentieth century inherited, Whiting makes the case for the importance of the concept to the modern period. He then turns more fully to Stevens' poetry, exploring Stevens' expressions of romantic irony in fresh and arresting readings of individual poems. Stevens' poetry shows us not only both senses of romantic irony but also the unresolved, indeed unresolvable conflict between them; in this way, Whiting argues, Stevens may be the modern heir most burdened by this aspect of his romantic inheritance.
The Never-Resting Mind breaks new ground while complementing biographical and "new historical" approaches. It has something to offer all those interested in the immediate foreground and general background of modern poetry.
"This thoughtful and well-balanced book is a substantial addition to our current understanding of Stevens' poetry and its place in the tradition of English philosophical verse." --A. Walton Litz, Princeton University
Anthony Whiting received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and is currently working on a study of American poetry in the Progressive era.

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