Philosophy of the Supreme Fiction: In and Beyond the Metaphysics of Wallace Stevens
The Tunxis Humanities Department and Tunxis Philosophy Club Present:
Proof & Possibility
A Series of Talks in Philosophy and the History of Ideas
Thursday, Dec. 3rd @ 1p.m.
Hartford’s most noted poet and once one of its more prominent insurance executives, Wallace Stevens, has often been studied for the philosophical character of his work. Considered a true American heir to the English Romantic poets, Stevens was also influenced by philosophers as diverse as Nietzsche and such pillars of American pragmatism as Ralph Waldo Emerson and George Santayana. So invested, in fact, is Stevens’s verse in the problems of epistemology—the study of knowledge and how, to what extent and how validly we can obtain it—and metaphysics —the study of first principles and what is finally most real—that his poetic output has been freshly examined in the light of current philosophical trends with each new decade.
However, the unique way that Stevens understood the interaction between the imagination and reality stubbornly resists dissection by logicians or diehard rationalists. In discussing what might be called his metaphysics—what he named “a supreme fiction”—Stevens was reluctant to limit it to poetry. However, even as he set out to address its qualities —”It Must Be Abstract,” “It Must Change,” and “It Must Give Pleasure”—he offered an insurance-style disclaimer: “As soon as I start to rationalize, I lose the poetry of the idea.”
Come join James Finnegan, poet, thinker, founder of The Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens organization, and insurance executive, for a fascinating hour and a half—over a provided light lunch—to explore the common ground of poetry and philosophy, with Hartford’s local treasure Stevens as our guide and muse.
James Finnegan’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry East, The Southern Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review and other literary magazines. With Dennis Barone he edited Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Wallace Stevens (U. of Iowa Press, 2009). He currently serves as president of The Friends & Enemies of Wallace Stevens, a Hartford area arts organization that supports the cultural legacy of Wallace Stevens and promotes poetry in the community. He founded an internet discussion listserv called the NewPoetry List, and he blogs aphoristic ars poetica at usrprache (http://ursprache.blogspot.com/). Mr. Finnegan works in the field of financial institutions risk management for Lee & Mason Financial Services, Inc.