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Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things 1st Edition

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195070224
ISBN-10: 0195070224
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Editorial Reviews


"Longenbach has crafted a strong personal interpretation of Stevens' poetry that deserves a place among the half-dozen major studies of Stevens on our shelves."--Wallace Stevens Journal

"An intelligent in-depth study."--Ken Norris, University of Maine

"Deftly mixes biography and criticism....Longenbach himself writes a plain, clear prose, which keeps his arguments refreshingly clear."--Washington Post Book World

"In convincingly linking Stevens' work with world events and movements, Longenbach may succeed in stripping some of the otherworldly aura from Stevens' work and encourage even non-academics to listen more closely to the blue guitar."--Hartford Courant

"Closely reasoned, clearly recited, Mr. Longenbach's purposes are severe and designed: he would read Stevens with the undistracted assumption that, as the poet said at the end, 'there is a conflict, there is a resistance involved.' This comes to no less, and no worse, than proposing against the three famous stipulations for a Supreme Fiction (pleasure, change, abstraction), three ulterior demands for responses to pain, sameness, plain sense. Ransacking (and often overruling) a whole library of critics and biographers, though always with amenity, Longenbach tenably proposes a Stevens on the wrong side of Paradise, and reminds us as he proceeds that we now read our greatest (twentieth-century American) poet as we have learned to read Dante, against the grain of his ideas and his time, treasuring, at last, the contingencies we once thought it was such a glory to transcend. Per astra ad ardua.--Richard Howard

About the Author

James Longenbach is at University of Rochester.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 31, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195070224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195070224
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,144,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By THUMBTOM on April 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
James Longenbach has the qualifications to pontificate; and from on high, the humanity to, at times, say something we are grateful to hear; but clearly he covers himself, and exposes Wallace Stevens, with the preferably invisible regalia of academia. The main business of his sermon is probably not to help us understand his subject. Before the pulpit, we are distracted by fretful footwork with soldiers and politics; and not enough appropriation of the poet's gaudy cloths. I dream of critics who would help me describe how it is that the effects that make words popular or famous, actually work their magic. I want to slip off the creamy peignoirs and the icy damask corsets of Wallace Stevens, to see the muse in all her glory, and to see the poet for what he is; and by this to raise the poet in me; to work over Stevens until, like his Crispin "nothing of himself remained". The danger is that now, having come so far without Gillette, we aren't going to see her burning bush. After criticism as difficult to read as this: what forgiveness? Without that ice-cream sideboard runner embroidered with fantails to cover his nonsense, we've paid for Longenbach to give The Emperor a "back, crack and sack".

Like R P Blackmur, Longenbach recognizes too that the very act of selectively explaining the details of a work of art must limit and thereby to an extent falsify the work: ''No feature of a body of poetry can be as important as it seems in discussion.''

There are "critics" of Wallace Stevens like Beverley Maeder, and I guess Frank Lentricchia who, writing about Stevens, are more difficult to follow than Stevens himself. With friends like this, and without Hansel, leading us to the sugared house in the woods, who needs wicked witches?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wesley F. Stevens on February 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Longenbach's The Plain Sense of Things,about the poet Wallace Stevens,is as perceptible as most anything written about Stevens -- the poet who assails the real sense of things with a high level of mental acuity. Longenbach is undeterred by the Stevensian mystique -- wading right on to the hallowed ground of poetic genius. Stevens is part of that domain, fearful as it is, without reservation. Longenbach, is aware that the "PlainSense of Things" is an anomaly of huge proportions. It comes through with some clarity only to those who have undergone the tough mental training necessary to understanding anything Wallace Stevens writes -- such as you will find in a variety of books available through Amazon.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hackman on November 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
At $70, only a fool or a trustfundbunny of pathological pretentiousness would buy it. Too bad, I can only suppose.
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Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things
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