A Room of One’s Own

by Pericles Lewis A Room of One’s Own (1929) is Virginia Woolf‘s most famous work of feminist literary criticism. If much of Woolf’s feminist writing concerns the problem of equality of access to goods that have traditionally been monopolized by men, in this work Woolf prefigures two concerns of later feminism: the reclaiming of a… Continue Reading A Room of One’s Own

Adolphe Appia

by Pericles Lewis The Swiss theorist Adolphe Appia (1862-1928), like the English actor and set designer Gordon Craig, created methods for implementing Richard Wagner’s vision of the “total work of art” in the theater. Appia, in The Staging of Wagnerian Music Drama (1895) and Music and the Art of Theatre (1899), proposed to banish painted… Continue Reading Adolphe Appia

Night Café (Café de Nuit)

by Pericles Lewis Vincent van Gogh’s “Night Café” (“Le café de nuit,” 1888) challenges perspectivalism and divides the space of the café into planes of bright color (the red wall, the green ceiling, the brown floor). Van Gogh said of the painting, “I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of… Continue Reading Night Café (Café de Nuit)

Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

by Pericles Lewis Wallace Stevens’ long poem, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” (1942) lists three criteria for that ultimate poetic creation: “It must be abstract,” “It must change,” and “It must give pleasure.” The title of this major poem suggests that Stevens shared in the modernist fascination with ultimate answers even when those answers, not… Continue Reading Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

An Ordinary Evening in New Haven

by Pericles Lewis In “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” (1950), Wallace Stevens writes of the possibility of a kind of poem that would avoid the vagaries of representation. describes the ideal of a language that could express reality as it is: The poem of pure reality, untouched By trope or deviation, straight to the… Continue Reading An Ordinary Evening in New Haven

Poetry (Marianne Moore)

In “Poetry” (1919), Marianne Moore engages directly in a debate with Tolstoy and William Butler Yeats, quoting Tolstoy’s dislike of “business documents and / school-books” and Yeats’s condemnation of “literalists of / the imagination,” before defending the roots of poetry in the literal, businesslike raw material of everyday life, her equivalent of Eliot’s “variety and… Continue Reading Poetry (Marianne Moore)

The Symbolist Movement in Literature

by Pericles Lewis Symbolism, whose legacy in English literature is best illustrated by the work of William Butler Yeats, was influentially introduced to an English-speaking public by Arthur Symons, translator of Baudelaire and the Italian decadent Gabriele d’Annunzio. Symons wrote of symbolism as “an attempt to spiritualise literature” in his 1899 book The Symbolist Movement… Continue Reading The Symbolist Movement in Literature

A Dream Play

by Pericles Lewis Like Pirandello’s six characters in search of an author, the main figures in August Strindberg‘s A Dream Play (1902) are known by their social roles, rather than names: the Officer, the Lawyer, the Doorkeeper, the Poet. Like Strindberg’s other dream plays, which were inspired in part by Ibsen’s Peer Gynt and When… Continue Reading A Dream Play

August Strindberg

Biography by Pericles Lewis The Swedish playwright August Strindberg (1849-1912) was the great rival of Henrik Ibsen in the Scandinavian theater. Their enmity began with Strindberg’s negative reaction to A Doll’s House, which he, disapprovingly, considered feminist. A noted misogynist, Strindberg wrote two highly accomplished naturalist plays, The Father (1887) and Miss Julie (1888), about… Continue Reading August Strindberg

Tender Buttons

Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons” (1914) offers “studies in description” of objects, in which, as in cubist still life, the object being described seems to be veiled by the medium of description. In the cubism of Picasso and Braque, the veils were the planes into which the painter broke up the canvas. In Stein’s writing, as… Continue Reading Tender Buttons