In a letter of January 1955, Wallace Stevens referred to Paul Valery as a "prodigy of poetry". Although his correspondence reveals that he was long familiar with both Valery's poetry and prose, and scholars from the early days of Stevens criticism to the present -- from Frank Kermode to Harold Bloom and Eleanor Cook -- have acknowledged Valery's importance for Stevens and noted the mark of Valery's poetics on Stevens' prose and poetry, until now there has been no comprehensive analysis of the affinities between them. The first full-length study of its kind, "The Figure Concealed" explores the multiple parallels between these two great 20th century poets. Lisa Goldfarb brings Valery's and Stevens' poetics and poetry into conversation, and focuses on the resonance of Valery's musical ideas in Stevens' poetic theory and practice. Early chapters focus on the interlacing of their work poetically and philosophically, while the later ones increasingly focus on readings of Stevens through the lens of Valeryan musical-poetic theory.
Stevens' letters, essays and poems are examined alongside Valery's Cahiers [Notebooks], essays, and poems to amplify the Valeryan echo throughout Stevens' work. The Figure Concealed makes an important contribution to studies of modern poetry and to Stevens scholarship in particular. It offers a new and transformative comparative study and proposes a musical poetics which will be important for scholars of modern poetry, of Stevens and Valery, and will appeal to all those interested in the relationship between music and poetry, the arts more broadly, as well as aesthetics and philosophy.
President of The Wallace Stevens Society and Associate Editor of The Wallace Stevens Journal (as of January, 2011), Lisa Goldfarb is Associate Dean and Associate Professor at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she teaches interdisciplinary courses focusing on poetry in English and French, music, and aesthetics. She has published essays on modern poetry in a variety of journals, including The Romanic Review, Journal of Modern Literature, and Fulcrum, and is a frequent contributor to The Wallace Stevens Journal. In March 2010, she organised the international conference, "Wallace Stevens, New York, and Modernism", which drew scholars and poets to New York from North America and Europe.
Introduction: The Figure Concealed; Contours & Transformations: The Musical Poetics of Stevens & Valery; Resonant Ideas: Philosophy & Music in Valery's Prose & Poetry; Philosophical Parallels & the Poetics of Variation; On the Vocal Chord: Poetics of Voice in Stevens & Valery; Words of the Exquisite Appositeness: "Credences of Summer"; The Poetic Promise of Unreadable Moments: "Things of August"; Eros & the Play of Sound in Wallace Stevens; References; Index.