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Abstract

In “Three Academic Pieces,” written two years after Hiroshima, Wallace Stevens off-handedly lets slip an indictment of Western culture belied by the rapturous sweep of his temporal and geographical excursuses. Arguing that the poet’s desire to “beget” a world sets into motion the contradictory forces that bring it down, Stevens climaxes “yesterday’s” prelude in the Vienna woods with the full orchestration of nuclear violence. The destructive mechanism, appearing to counter the high culture of poetry, painting, and music, is the logical conclusion of the original impulse. Stevens’s patriarchal “begetting” results in an Ovidian and Petrarchan obviation of the woman. The excision almost goes unnoticed as Stevens glides from hunter’s horn to birds’ preludes and then leaps from musical song to the explosion that links poetry to war. What does Stevens intend when he collapses time, regresses to an ancient “yesterday,” and then forecloses all history with the atom bomb? how does the tiny bird song bring on the monstrousness of nuclear violence?

Keywords

Atom Bomb Witness Testimony Greek Myth Lyric Poetry Contradictory Claim 
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Notes

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Copyright information

© Barbara L. Estrin 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara L. Estrin
    • 1
  1. 1.Stonehill CollegeUSA

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