Nietzschean nobility in Wallace Stevens'' Collected poems



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Most criticism of Stevens' poetry is concerned either with style or with content, without precise recognition of their relevance to each other. Since the idea of nobility absorbed the poet's attention throughout most of his life, it is important to show their relationship by-exploring that idea and its accompanying diction, Imagery, tone, and structure as these are revealed In his poems. Stevens' concept of nobility Is like Friedrich Nietzsche's, and their shared concerns are derived from the Greek, Sophoclean ideal of fusing the ethical, the religious, and the aesthetic to achieve balance and harmony in society and in the self. Like this Greek ideal, Stevens' own evolved from one of simple stoicism and courage in battle to the more complex ideal which culminated In tragic vision, Stevens' poetry is a Nietzschean drama of self and world 'overcoming' through Nietzschean gestures of irony, detachment, wit, gaiety, and singularity. The noble imagination both expresses and molds the heroic; style re-inforces and is inextricably part of the heroic ideal. Stevens evades the subjective, Romantic voice to achieve this ideal by his use of personae, multiple speakers, and dialectic. His gaudy, eccentric, but majestic diction strengthens this achievement. The noble imagination is shown to be an ever-changing force as it interacts with ever-changing reality to discover, to order, and to transform self and world through the creative power of construction and abstraction. By intensifying, expanding, and ordering existence, the imagination achieves spiritual height and depth to give sanction and majesty to belng--lndlvldually and collectively.