from: "American Literature: Twentieth Century" by Henry Claridge and Janet Goodwyn - a brief review of Wallace Stevens and the Actual World

The Year's Work in English Studies
volume 72 (1991)

"American Literature: Twentieth Century"
Henry Claridge and Janet Goodwyn
p. 478-79

Alan Filreis in Wallace Stevens and the Actual World offers a much needed contextualization for Stevens's poetry primarily in the years 1939 to 1945, a useful complement to the letters of this period. He revalues Stevens's engagement with the war poem business and the cultural politics of its production, but, most significantly, he traces the effect of the Mesures connection. Stevens was a subscriber and contributor to the literary magazine run by Henry Church in Paris before the war. The fate of Mesures and its contributors became, for Stevens, an index of the survival of European culture. Jean Wahl, a Mesures writer and concentration camp survivor who escaped to America, invited Stevens to his Mount Holyoke Conference in 1943. Filreis's meticulous effort of historical recovery is at its finest in this section; he gets to the heart of the occasion and gives us the resonances of the address and the poetry which it inspired. The distinction of this book lies not only in its painstaking research, a veritable web of cross-reference, but also in its well-judged and never over-stated assessment of the degree and range of Stevens's concerns in this period.


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