Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226687971 Will Publish April 2020
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226687834 Will Publish April 2020
E-book $27.50 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226688022 Will Publish April 2020

Ecological Poetics; or, Wallace Stevens’s Birds

Cary Wolfe

Ecological Poetics; or, Wallace Stevens’s Birds

Cary Wolfe

232 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2020
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226687971 Will Publish April 2020
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226687834 Will Publish April 2020
E-book $27.50 ISBN: 9780226688022 Will Publish April 2020
The poems of Wallace Stevens teem with birds: grackles, warblers, doves, swans, nightingales, owls, peacocks, and one famous blackbird who summons thirteen ways of looking. What do Stevens’s evocations of birds, and his poems more generally, tell us about the relationship between human and nonhuman? In this book, the noted theorist of posthumanism Cary Wolfe argues for a philosophical and theoretical reinvention of ecological poetics, using Stevens as a test case.

Stevens, Wolfe argues, is an ecological poet in the sense that his places, worlds, and environments are co-created by the life forms that inhabit them. Wolfe argues for a “nonrepresentational” conception of ecopoetics, showing how Stevens’s poems reward study alongside theories of system, environment, and observation derived from a multitude of sources, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Niklas Luhmann to Jacques Derrida and Stuart Kauffman. Ecological Poetics is an ambitious interdisciplinary undertaking involving literary criticism, contemporary philosophy, and theoretical biology.
Preface: “An Affair of Places”

Part 1. Reading Stevens, Once More

Chapter 1. Poems (and Critics) of Our Climate
Chapter 2. “Like Seeing Fallen Brightly Away”: A New Theory for the Emerson/Stevens Genealogy

Part 2. From Epistemological to Ecological Poetics

Chapter 3. “There Is No World”: Deconstruction, Theoretical Biology, and the Creative Universe
Chapter 4. “Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same”

Part 3. “Farewell to an Idea”: Some Later Long Poems

Chapter 5. Scapes and Spheres
Chapter 6. “Premetaphysical Pluralism”: Dwelling in the Ordinary

Coda: Indirections, on the Way

Review Quotes
Marjorie Levinson, University of Michigan
“In this remarkable and elegant book, Wolfe achieves a stunning account of the inhumanness, the ‘strange planetary impersonality’ of Stevens’s poetry. Ecological Poetics carves out a new space for study within the general field of ecopoetics, focusing on a kind of poetry that reproduces rather than represents the peculiar logic of many biological, physical, and computational systems. Wolfe delivers a powerful new engine for thought, one that we can add to our repertoires of critical ideas and methods and apply to the larger cultural topic of environmentality.”
Branka Arsic, Columbia University
“The Stevens that emerges in Ecological Poetics is a new and very different animal from the one we thought we knew. We come to understand him as concerned with the embodied, the finite, the fragile, and the concrete, rather than preoccupied with abstract concepts and an idealist aesthetics. Through a series of excellent close readings, especially of his later poems, Stevens becomes the thinker to help us understand the vertiginous logic of the Anthropocene. Wolfe gives us a philosophy of ecological poetics whose ultimate stakes are both ethical and political, instructing us in how we might think poetically in order to effectively resist the destruction of life forms."
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