Wallace Stevens' Philosophical Evasions
Wallace Stevens Journal Vol. 31, No.1, pp. 27-42, Spring 2007
16 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2011 Last revised: 10 Jul 2020
Date Written: April 1, 2007
How could thought ever benefit from being formed in poetic language rather than philosophical prose? This essay attempts to clarify a single, relatively narrow respect in which poetry can perform philosophical work that prose, as such, cannot: the evasion of philosophical dogmatism through Stevensian qualification. What Helen Vendler in an early essay calls Stevens’ “qualified assertions,” and what Marjorie Perloff calls Stevens’ “ironic modes,” are the basic techniques of Wallace Stevens' anti-dogmatic art.
Keywords: Wallace Stevens, philosophy, poetry, qualified assertion, anti-dogmatism, Helen Vendler, Marjorie Perloff, G.P. Baker, Simon Critchley, The Ultimate Poem Is Abstract
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