A CONSIDERATION OF PARADISE IN THE POETRY OF WALLACE STEVENS

GEORGE PAUL CASTELLITTO, Fordham University

Abstract

Wallace Stevens asserts that the link between particular external realities and man is accomplished through the imagination, that human faculty which perceives and attempts to understand each object and experience. As Stevens' poem "The Idea of Order at Key West" explains, the artificer, in his imaginative perception, forms a vital connection with each component of physical and temporal reality. For Stevens, paradise is not some removed, spiritual, mythical realm where man and his physical world are forgotten in the light of perfection. Rather, paradise becomes the continuing experience of the human imagination perceiving the world and relating man to that world.^ Poetry becomes the tool that Stevens employs to structure and understand the paradise that arises in man's imaginative connection with reality. "Esthetique du Mal" describes how the non-physical people in heaven, itself non-physical, may observe the green corn gleaming and only experience the minor of what man on earth feels. If heaven is to exist for Stevens, it must come in man's daily, non-static, non-sensual, imaginative perception of the world.^ Stevens' philosophical abstractions concerning the nature of paradise raise questions regarding the actual location of such a paradise. Is paradise simply a metaphor that Stevens attaches to some insubstantial realm? How can Stevens avoid the presence of the sensual in his presentation of a paradise that deals with the physical, sensual earth? This study deals with these problematic areas in Stevens' portrayal of his paradise. Through the fusing power of the imagination, Stevens' paradise emerges as an actual state in which the imagination, man, and his world are joined.^ Though the critics acknowledge the role of the imagination in Stevens' aesthetic, still they offer only a superficial assessment of his notion of paradise. The idea of paradise is a recurrent premise in may of Stevens' earlier poems in Harmonium, as well as in such major works as "Sunday Morning," "Esthetique du Mal," and The Rock. This dissertation traces, explores, and discusses the meanings and development of the paradise imagery throughout Stevens' work. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

GEORGE PAUL CASTELLITTO, "A CONSIDERATION OF PARADISE IN THE POETRY OF WALLACE STEVENS" (January 1, 1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8506320.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506320

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