Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Robert Baker

Committee Co-chair

Robert Pack

Commitee Members

Fred McGlynn, John Hunt


An Ordinary Evening, Despair, Farewell, Grief, Tintern Abbey, Wallace Stevens, Wordsworth


University of Montana


My thesis paper explores Wallace Stevens’s poem “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” contextually. Stevens has long been regarded as monotonous in his themes. Critics, including Bloom, have studied “An Ordinary Evening” as a poem that struggles to unite the real with the imagination. They trace his ideas of reality to Emerson, Coleridge, and Whitman, among others, through the use of intertextual analysis based on structure and allusions. Others, such as Vendler, focus on his use of minimalism to study the psychology of the author. A contextual study of “An Ordinary Evening” reveals that the poem is about how to cope with the emotions caused by loss, monotony of life, and disillusionment, a previously unexplored subject in Stevens. I look at the meaning of the motifs from the pressure of the poem and show how the motifs connect to Wordsworth’s, Baudelaire’s, and Whitman’s grief poems. I, then, explore how Stevens recommends coping with anguish by allowing the object to lose meaning and then engaging the imagination to create a new way of seeing the object. I show how Stevens advocates finding comfort in a state of anguish by using the flux of reality to momentarily allow the real and unreal to become one.

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© Copyright 2008 Brenda Y. Lamb