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 vouchsafed by a higher power, had to be invented. It also points to the necessarily fragmentary approach to any such ultimate answer. The poem is, like the major works of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, a collection of lyrics, and the modesty of the title suggests that these are no more than “Notes,” plural and presumably incomplete, like Eliot’s “fragments” and Pound’s Cantos.[1]

  1. ↑ This page has been adapted from Pericles Lewis’s Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (Cambridge UP, 2007), p. 149.

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