The best way to find an entry into the playful but frequently enigmatic and elusive poetry of the canonical US-American Modernist Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) is to read him in tandem with other poets. Stevens was someone who spent most of his life reading poetry, and his work is often an indirect response to that of his predecessors and contemporaries. His poems revolve mostly around topoi that have already been treated by countless other lyrical poets and on which he develops his wholly personal, often surprising variations. That is why in this course you get the opportunity to approach Stevens's poems by analyzing them comparatively -- as ever so many responses to Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Whitman, Williams, and others. After a number of introductory classes and collective close readings of Stevens's work, students are being sent out to investigate and elaborate concrete intertextual links (which have been discussed in great numbers in Stevens criticism). At the end of the term, students present the results of their self-selected investigations, first in the form of a classroom presentation, then developed into a brief paper.
Note that the classroom sessions themselves will be limited to a discussion of Stevens's poetry; other poets' works will be part of your individual research.