All Theses, Dissertations, and Capstone Projects

Year of Award



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts & Sciences


History, Philosophy, and Religion


Wallace Stevens, Poetry, American Poets, Sunday Morning, Le Monocle de Mon Oncle, The Comedian as the Letter C, The Idea of Order at Key West, The Man with the Blue Guitar, It Must be Abstract, It Must Change, It Must Give Pleasure, An Ordinary Evening in New Haven, To an Old Philosopher in Rome, Harmonium, Chair of Catholic Thought


If Hyatt Waggoner's suggested argument is an accurate one, and Stevens is "the completely modern poet," we might expect to find in his work a basic expression of the contemporary faith of men and women of common sense and good will as they live their lives and order their worlds. By such a contemporary faith we mean that " . . . fundamental attitude which affirms the ultimate significance and final worth of our own lives, our thoughts, and actions here and now in nature and history. Without recourse to the "consolations of belief" in traditional religious systems, such persons accept the contingency, relativity, temporality, and autonomy of human existence. But if Stevens is also "the completely honest poet," we might also expect a reflective exploration within his poetry of what that faith itself entails: the conditions of its possibility, the effects of its affirmation. We should find in his poems the aesthetic experience of "that in religion which is not dogma but imagined idea."

A truly extraordinary achievement of Wallace Stevens lies in his attentive and thoughtful strategy for creating that "new style of a new bearing in a new reality." This dissertation will try to show the ways in which Stevens elaborates a "grammar of assent" to what his experience presents, his imagination enriches, his understanding embraces, and his judgment affirms. With John Coulson, I use "grammar" to mean "that underlying form, or structure, which we discover as we learn and use a language," in this case, the language Stevens uses to craft his poems. This grammar or use of language shares a great deal in common with the languages of many theologians and philosophers of religion as they attempt ·to articulate an understanding of the meaning of religion in human life and the truth of religious language and beliefs.

Document Type

Restricted Dissertation


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