The goal of my research project was to learn more about the life of modern American poet, Wallace Stevens, and to decide whether or not his conversion to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed should be considered authentic.
In addition, I hoped to determine if there are any signs of a conversion could be seen in Stevens’ poetry. I read biographies of Stevens, as well as interviews, criticisms, and his own poetic collections for my preliminary research. Then, I wrote on a weekly basis about my thoughts and discoveries. My Honors Independent Research Project turned out to be 43 pages or 16,000 words—just about thesis length (but who’s counting?). I focused on four of his poems—Anecdote of Men by the Thousands, Sunday Morning, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, and Of Mere Being—as well as accounts about his final days. I believe that I wrote a convincing paper about why Wallace Stevens’ conversion to Catholicism at the end of his life should be viewed as genuine, and also about the indicators of his affinity for religion that I noted throughout his poetic career.
I plan on continuing to research this project. I felt crunched for time at the end of the semester, and I wish that I could have devoted more time to polishing this paper. But, I still have more reading and thinking to do, and I also plan to write more about this topic. It is close to my heart, and I want to develop my argument to the best of my ability.
Although I found this assignment to be very challenging at times, in hindsight, this is one of my favorite academic experiences as a student at Providence College. I am proud of myself for finishing this project, and I am satisfied with the end result. I couldn’t have asked for a better advisor than Dr. Hogan. He was knowledgeable, flexible, and he always provided me with the encouragement that I needed. I could not have turned out a finished product of this caliber without him. I found it very helpful to meet with him on a weekly basis and to bounce my ideas off of him because they often turned into even better thoughts. This honors independent research project/thesis helped me to grow as a person and in my faith. I found personal inspiration in the life-story and the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and I believe that to complete an essay of this length and depth allowed me to become more organized, self-disciplined, and efficient. I would absolutely recommend conducting research to other students who consider themselves to be up to the task.
The goal of my research project was to learn more about the life of modern American poet, Wallace Stevens, and... MORE
Hi everyone – I have been meeting with my thesis advisor, Dr. Bill Hogan, on a weekly basis to discuss my work and to gauge my progress on this project. He has been a huge help throughout the process. I have found it extremely beneficial to bounce my ideas off of him, to engage with his own theories about Wallace Stevens’ poetry, and to have a second set of eyes on my writing. Dr. Hogan is also interested in Stevens, but he is more focused on the poet’s treatment of nature, so it has been fruitful for me to join my own analysis with his fresh perspective in our collaborative discussions.
Since my last blog post, I have narrowed the scope of my independent research project slightly. The crux of my thesis paper will involve my engagement with (and analysis of) three major poems that trace the entirety of Wallace Stevens’ literary career. The first, “Sunday Morning,” is from Stevens’ earliest collection, Harmonium, and it is one of his most well-known works. “Sunday Morning” is concerned with finding meaning and beauty in a world devoid of religion. In my paper, I will argue that Stevens’ attempt to find a replacement for institutionalized belief is a fundamental religious impulse and a paradoxical movement toward God. The second major work that I will be grappling with is a mid-career moment of Stevens, which is titled “Notes toward a Supreme Fiction.” Many critics consider this to be Stevens’ opus–his “Wasteland” poem per se.
In this vastly difficult literary masterpiece, the poet simultaneously uses images and abstractions to establish his views on reality, the imagination, perception, and the power of poetry. Although there are religious topics to be explored in “Notes,” it is mostly relevant to my project because in it, Stevens tries to discover a supreme fiction that is capable of replacing religion. And while Stevens never arrived at a unifying truth at the center of reality in his poetry, he did find God at the end of his life, and I believe that the poet’s striving toward real knowledge in “Notes” can be seen as a precursor to his Catholic conversion. The last poem that I plan to analyze in-depth is the one of the last poems that Wallace Stevens ever wrote–“Of Mere Being”. In true Stevensian fashion, the poet still uses vivid images and rare abstractions to convey his perception of reality even this late in his life. However, I will argue that “Of Mere Being” is one of Stevens’ most explicitly religious poems. The language and the images that the poet employs suggest a readiness to accept God’s grace and to be welcomed into the fold. Of course, I will be using other poems from Harmonium, Transport to Summer, The Rock, and Late Poems as ancillary ammo for my argument. But, as of right now, the three aforementioned poems will form the basis of my thesis project.
I now know that my thesis will be focused on Wallace Stevens’ sacramental vision of the world as seen in his poetry. I will analyze Stevens’ poetry in the context of the Catholic sacraments and I will explain how the poet’s goal is analogous to that which takes place in a sacramental rite. Just like a Catholic priest uses words to turn material objects into divine vessels, so too did Wallace Stevens try to uncover a supreme fiction in the world through his poetic language.
I plan on visiting Stevens’ Hartford home in late April so that I can take his walk to work on a sunny day. I think that by taking a day late in the semester to explore Stevens’ city and to see his favorite natural conservancy (Elizabeth Park), it will allow me to appreciate all of the work that I have done so far and it will help me to conclude my independent research project. I plan to enjoy this day with my girlfriend and my mom, which will make the experience even more special.
Hi everyone – I have been meeting with my thesis advisor, Dr. Bill Hogan, on a weekly basis to discuss... MORE