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Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill (A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts)

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In Last Looks, Last Books, the eminent critic Helen Vendler examines the ways in which five great modern American poets, writing their final books, try to find a style that does justice to life and death alike. With traditional religious consolations no longer available to them, these poets must invent new ways to express the crisis of death, as well as the paradoxical coexistence of a declining body and an undiminished consciousness. In The Rock, Wallace Stevens writes simultaneous narratives of winter and spring; in Ariel, Sylvia Plath sustains melodrama in cool formality; and in Day by Day, Robert Lowell subtracts from plenitude. In Geography III, Elizabeth Bishop is both caught and freed, while James Merrill, in A Scattering of Salts, creates a series of self-portraits as he dies, representing himself by such things as a Christmas tree, human tissue on a laboratory slide, and the evening/morning star. The solution for one poet will not serve for another; each must invent a bridge from an old style to a new one. Casting a last look at life as they contemplate death, these modern writers enrich the resources of lyric poetry.

Synopsis:

In Last Looks, Last Books, the eminent critic Helen Vendler examines the ways in which five great modern American poets, writing their final books, try to find a style that does justice to life and death alike. With traditional religious consolations no longer available to them, these poets must invent new ways to express the crisis of death, as well as the paradoxical coexistence of a declining body and an undiminished consciousness. In The Rock, Wallace Stevens writes simultaneous narratives of winter and spring; in Ariel, Sylvia Plath sustains melodrama in cool formality; and in Day by Day, Robert Lowell subtracts from plenitude. In Geography III, Elizabeth Bishop is both caught and freed, while James Merrill, in A Scattering of Salts, creates a series of self-portraits as he dies, representing himself by such things as a Christmas tree, human tissue on a laboratory slide, and the evening/morning star. The solution for one poet will not serve for another; each must invent a bridge from an old style to a new one. Casting a last look at life as they contemplate death, these modern writers enrich the resources of lyric poetry.

Synopsis:

"Helen Vendler is one of the most lucid and incisive critics with which the art of poetry has been blessed, and this is one of her finest books--brilliant, moving, and a pleasure to read."--James Longenbach, University of Rochester

"This is an elegant, expressive, and often very poignant book. One can only admire Helen Vendler's skill in showing how these American poets confronted their own leave-taking."--Angus Fletcher, City University of New York

About the Author

Helen Vendler is the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University. Her many books include "Invisible Listeners: Lyric Intimacy in Herbert, Whitman, and Ashbery "(Princeton), as well as studies of Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats, Stevens, and Heaney. She is a frequent reviewer for the "New Republic", the "New York Review of Books", and other publications.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Chapter 1: Introduction: Last Looks, Last Books 1

Chapter 2: Looking at the Worst: Wallace Stevens's Th e Rock 25

Chapter 3: Th e Contest of Melodrama and Restraint: Sylvia Plath's Ariel 47

Chapter 4: Images of Subtraction: Robert Lowell's Day by Day 70

Chapter 5: Caught and Freed: Elizabeth Bishop and Geography III 94

Chapter 6: Self-Portraits While Dying: James Merrill and A Scattering of Salts 117

Notes 143

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691145341
Author:
Vendler, Helen
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
Death in literature
Subject:
American poetry -- 20th century.
Subject:
Poetry
Subject:
American - General
Subject:
American Language and Literature
Subject:
Comparative Literature
Subject:
American literature
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Copyright:
Series:
The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts
Series Volume:
56
Publication Date:
March 2010
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Pages:
168
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill (A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) New Hardcover
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Product details 168 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691145341 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In Last Looks, Last Books, the eminent critic Helen Vendler examines the ways in which five great modern American poets, writing their final books, try to find a style that does justice to life and death alike. With traditional religious consolations no longer available to them, these poets must invent new ways to express the crisis of death, as well as the paradoxical coexistence of a declining body and an undiminished consciousness. In The Rock, Wallace Stevens writes simultaneous narratives of winter and spring; in Ariel, Sylvia Plath sustains melodrama in cool formality; and in Day by Day, Robert Lowell subtracts from plenitude. In Geography III, Elizabeth Bishop is both caught and freed, while James Merrill, in A Scattering of Salts, creates a series of self-portraits as he dies, representing himself by such things as a Christmas tree, human tissue on a laboratory slide, and the evening/morning star. The solution for one poet will not serve for another; each must invent a bridge from an old style to a new one. Casting a last look at life as they contemplate death, these modern writers enrich the resources of lyric poetry.
"Synopsis" by ,

"Helen Vendler is one of the most lucid and incisive critics with which the art of poetry has been blessed, and this is one of her finest books--brilliant, moving, and a pleasure to read."--James Longenbach, University of Rochester

"This is an elegant, expressive, and often very poignant book. One can only admire Helen Vendler's skill in showing how these American poets confronted their own leave-taking."--Angus Fletcher, City University of New York

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