Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wallace Stevens & Marcel Duchamp.

The PN Review

May 2006

A slightly revised version of this essay appears in Wallace Stevens across the Atlantic (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).



After leaving Paris for New York during World War I Marcel Duchamp declared, perhaps conveniently, that the true home of art had also recently moved across the Atlantic. ‘If only America would realize that the art of Europe is finished—dead’, he told a reporter for the New York Tribune in September 1915, just a few months after arriving in the States, ‘and that America is the country of the art of the future’.[1] Duchamp was already a minor celebrity in the US (hence the Tribune interview) thanks to his Nude Descending a Staircase, a large cubist painting that caused a popular sensation at the Armory Show of 1913. When he arrived in New York City he was met by Walter Pach, the Armory Show’s principal European connection, who introduced him to Walter Arensberg, a wealthy American collector who had already purchased one version of the famous Nude and would later purchase the definitive version. Duchamp was soon living and working in Arensberg’s spacious Upper West Side apartment.

On a Monday afternoon that August Arensberg telephoned his college friend Wallace Stevens and asked him to dinner with the artist and himself at the Brevoort Hotel in Greenwich Village. The Brevoort was a short ride from Stevens’s apartment in Chelsea, and its very Gallic cafĂ©, run by the French restaurateur Raymond Orteig, had become a popular meeting-place for the literary and artistic avant-garde. At the Brevoort, Arensberg, Duchamp and Stevens spoke French together, ‘like sparrows around a pool of water’, as Stevens wrote to his wife Elsie shortly afterward, identifying Duchamp for her as ‘the man who painted The Nude Descending a Staircase’. This Francophone setting suited Stevens, as anyone who had read his published work up to that point could have guessed. His first post-collegiate appearance in print, from August 1914, carried the French title ‘Carnet de Voyage’, while his first major publication, in Poetry later that year, was set in Paris and Belgium, began with a quote from Pascal in the original French and described peace as a landscape painting by the 17th-century French painter Claude Lorraine.

To a contemporary observer of the literary scene, these references are likely to have suggested more than a facility with the language; Duchamp was hardly alone in emphasizing the cultural divide between Old World and New, typically represented by France and the United States. In fact, Duchamp had arrived fairly late to this literary and artistic skirmish, and his comments in the Tribune are likely to have raised the eyebrows of several American artists, who once perceived him as decidedly on the other side. The Armory Show, the scene of his American triumph two years before, was originally intended to showcase the American Association of Painters and Sculptors, and several of its members were dismayed when Walter Pach secured the participation of Duchamp and others and renamed it the International Exhibition of Modern Art. They were even more disappointed when the European artists received the bulk of the attention and the sales. Jerome Meyers, a painter and early member of the AAPS, later declared that ‘more than ever before our great country had become a colony’. Now one of the leading colonists had come to stay.

The comment from Meyers takes on an odd resonance when one comes to it by way of ‘The Comedian as the Letter C’, the long poem by Wallace Stevens recounting the journey of a Frenchman who comes to the US and plans a colony. Nor do I think that parallel is entirely coincidental. As other critics have noted, the journey of Crispin in that poem shares much with the aesthetic journey that Stevens himself took during the 1910s. A significant part of that journey began, I would suggest, around the time that Stevens dined with Duchamp in Greenwich Village. Up until that dinner, Stevens, in his poetry, appeared more interested in Europe than America. Though he had already demonstrated his distinctive penchant for place-names, he had never, before 1916, named in his poems an American place (and that includes collegiate and unpublished verse). In the six years following his dinner with Duchamp, Stevens would refer in his poetry to Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, Connecticut, Florida, and the Carolinas, as well as North America, Canada, some Latin American locations and several American towns. This flood of American place-names reaches its highpoint in ‘The Comedian as the Letter C’. Then, following Stevens’s long hiatus from publishing, it becomes a trickle, rising again briefly when Stevens turns to his genealogy in the mid-1940s.

One could quite easily discuss this aspect of Stevens’s writing without any reference to Marcel Duchamp. But tracing his possible influence in this regard serves, I think, some important purposes. First, it reminds us that national identity is always a largely constructed thing. If America was for Duchamp, as for many French writers before and since, an exotic place, a kind of screen onto which he could project his own interests and ideas, it was not an altogether different kind of thing for Wallace Stevens. Stevens would later acknowledge this explicitly in ‘Description Without Place’, the 1945 poem that so angered William Carlos Williams. (Williams wrote the poem "A Place, Any Place, to Transcend All Places" in response.) Williams was upset by the poem because he had thought of Stevens as an ally in his Americanist project—an opinion that derived from the so-called Harmonium years which I will be discussing. In fact, one can find in Stevens’s Americanist poems a marked uncertainty about the project, as I will show. But Williams was not entirely incorrect to see in Stevens some sympathy as well. Which leaves us with a question. Given Stevens’s uncertainty, why did he entertain the Americanist idea? What interest did it hold for him?

‘The Comedian as the Letter C’, which takes as its central drama the establishment of a poetic career, encourages us, I think, to see this uncertain dabbling in Americanism as an attempt to find a poetic identity and establish a foothold in the literary world. It served much the same purpose, in other words, as the other ‘isms’ did for other poets of the period. Stevens had long before realized he would not make a living from his poetry, but he still wished to ‘make it’ as a poet, as Duchamp had made it as an artist. Of course, Stevens was no careerist: he had strict standards as to what would justify a literary career, which I will discuss later. It is this tension, between finding a place in the literary world and justifying that place, that appears in Stevens’s Americanist poetry, particularly, I think, in both ‘The Comedian’, and in ‘Anecdote of the Jar’, that seemingly inexhaustible, twelve-line enigma of a poem. This paper is, at heart, an attempt to understand those two poems, and the relationship between them. ‘The Comedian as the Letter C’ is a sprawling work that merits a longer discussion than I have space for, so I have focused here on the shorter poem. My path begins at the Brevoort Hotel, and its next stop is St. Paul, Minnesota, followed by a series of poems published in a tiny New York magazine, founded and edited by an American friend of Marcel Duchamp named Robert Coady.


‘­Eminent Vers Libriste

Arrives in Town

Details of Reception.

St. Paul, Minn. July 19, 1916. Wallace Stevens, the playwright and barrister, arrived at Union Station, at 10.30 o’clock this morning. Some thirty representatives of the press were not present to greet him. He proceeded on foot to the Hotel St. Paul, where they had no room for him. Thereupon, carrying an umbrella and two mysterious looking bags, he proceeded to Minnesota Club, 4th & Washington-Streets, St. Paul, where he will stay while he is in St. Paul. At the Club, Mr. Stevens took a shower-bath and succeeded in flooding not only the bath-room floor but the bed-room floor as well. He used all the bath-towels in mopping up the mess and was obliged to dry himself with a wash-cloth. From the Club, Mr. Stevens went down-town on business. When asked how he liked St. Paul, Mr. Stevens, borrowing a cigar, said, ‘I like it’. (L 196)

‘The above clipping may be of interest to you’, Stevens wrote his wife Elsie from St. Paul in the summer of 1916, one year after his dinner with Arensberg and Duchamp.[2] As is no doubt apparent, the ‘above clipping’ is in fact a parody written by Stevens himself of the kind of publicity sometimes granted to well-known writers traveling to provincial cities. For ‘vers libristes’ such as Stevens, such publicity was on the rise. The entrepreneurial Amy Lowell had spent much of 1915 touring the U.S. to promote the ‘movement’. In February of 1916, Conrad Aiken complained that poetry was becoming too popular, singling out Poetry magazine and its prize-giving ways for particular complaint. Harriet Monroe herself worried about poetry’s having become fashionable, while her assistant editor Alice Corbin Henderson feared that ‘this supposed popularity of the art’ might be ephemeral: ‘a good deal of dust’. The scene in the summer of 1916 was described vividly in the Dial—which had not yet become a purveyor of the ‘new poetry’—two years later:

The Muse was on the make hereabouts: patronesses had been discovering her; prizes were multiplying; newspapers were giving critics their head; poetry magazines, mushrooms or hardier plants were springing up overnight; it was raining anthologies—boom times![3]

This comment in the Dial was made apropos of the Spectra Hoax, undertaken by Stevens’s Harvard friend Witter Bynner and another Harvard alum, Arthur Davison Ficke. ‘Spectrism’ was a send-up primarily of Imagism, but it was the proliferation of ‘isms’ that inspired the parody; the Spectrist method, according to its manifesto, was ‘not so wholly different from the methods of Futurist Painting’.[4] Bynner and Ficke recognized that these ‘movements’ had taken on a life of their own, and procured for their members an advantage when it came to publication. Louis Menand, making a similar point, has compared the various ‘isms’, and Imagism in particular, to the professional associations that blossomed in the United States late in the nineteenth century. He is not the first to suggest a connection between these movements and professionalization. ‘Just as Taylor and Gilbreth want to introduce scientific management into industry’, wrote Rebecca West in 1913, ‘so the imagistes want to discover the most puissant way of whirling the scattered star dust of words into a new star of passion’.[5]

In his satirical Minnesota clipping, Stevens uses two terms for his literary profession: vers libriste and playwright. The first aligns him with the movement that Bynner and Ficke had just begun to parody. (In the original draft of their manifesto, they identified Stevens as a Spectrist. Possibly out of loyalty to Bynner’s friend, they removed this sentence before publication.)[6] The second, meanwhile, draws attention to a portion of his output that has since been largely overlooked. His three mature efforts at poetic drama, one unfinished, received as much attention as most of his early poems—more, in fact. Just days before Stevens left for Minnesota, he learned that his first play, Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise, had won a one-hundred-dollar prize from Poetry magazine. Stevens was ‘delighted with the result’, calling it a ‘feather in my cap’ (L 194). Contrary to the view that Stevens’s poetic career was unknown to his insurance colleagues, word of this prize apparently circulated among his new co-workers at the Hartford.[7] He was extremely accommodating of the criticism provided by Monroe and another judge of the contest, hoping that the play would be successful when performed (L 194-95). The ‘clipping’ from St. Paul suggests the excitement with which he regarded his rising literary stature, while its comedy suggests his lingering uncertainty (‘some thirty representatives of the press were not present to greet him’, he notes) and even discomfort (after finding no room in the first hotel, he floods his room in the second). Stevens soon began work on another play.

A few days after sending the satirical newspaper clipping, Stevens wrote to his wife again, and described the sights of Minnesota. The ‘way the wind rolled in the grass was better than the Russian ballet’, he wrote, ‘although not unlike it’ (L 196-97). Whether Elsie would have grasped the implications of this sentence is unclear, but the comparison is not, I suspect, made lightly. The Ballet Russes was one of the first triumphs of the ‘new’ art, and it was decidedly international, making its successful Paris debut in 1909, succeeding in London two years later, and eventually winning over New York audiences as well. (Witter Bynner claimed to have first conceived of the Spectra hoax while watching Massine dance in the Spectre de la Rose.)[8] Stevens had observed the grass while sightseeing around St. Paul, and in the comment to his wife, he holds up a pastoral, American moment as not only artistically comparable to an eminent example of International Modernism, but as superior to it.

A few months later Stevens published for the first time a poem that named an American place. It was a poetic sequence entitled Primordia, and it begins with another Minnesota scene.

All over Minnesota,
Cerise sopranos,
Walking in the snow,
Answer, humming,

The male voice of the wind in the dry leaves
Of the lake-hollows.
For one,
The syllables of the gulls and of the crows
And of the blue-bird
Meet in the name of Jalmar Lillygreen.
There is his motion
In the flowing of black water. (CPP 534)

These opening lines flaunt the multiple cultural heritages of America: a Native American place-name is followed by a line comprised of one French and one Italian word, all folded into an English language poem. The sounds of local birds meet somehow in the name of a local person. Jalmar Lillygreen has a Scandinavian first name and an English surname, and is thus identifiably Minnesotan, as the state’s population at the time descended predominantly from these two European places. ‘Lake-hollows’ and snow are also distinctly Minnesotan. Tony Sharpe, one of the few critics to mention Primordia at all, calls the sequence a series of ‘regional miniatures’. That description, however, seems to suggest the ‘local-color’ writing of the late nineteenth century rather than the ‘localist’ poetics employed, I think, in this sequence. These poetics differ from earlier ‘local color’ writing in the conviction that, in the words of William Carlos Williams, ‘the classic is the local fully realized’, that ‘true’ or ‘great’ literature is always local.[9] The author of Primordia not only includes regional details, he implies a relationship between place and poetic voice. The ‘cerise sopranos’ are red birds, figured as female, who answer the ‘male voice of the wind’—a familiar trope for poetic inspiration. The sounds of the birds are, in turn, expressed by a local person. Thus the place is embodied, and local culture becomes a representation of a natural spirit. The title of the sequence, too, suggests that these local images somehow embody an originary source.

It is important to note, I think, the small phrase set off by itself in the seventh line: ‘For one’, the poems says, before introducing Jalmar Lillygreen and the notion that his name embodies his surroundings. This little phrase opens up the possibility of distance between the ideas expressed and the author of them. In this respect it may serve the same purpose as the repeated phrase ‘he said’ in the poem ‘Anecdote of Men by the Thousand’, published a couple of years later and concerned with the same argument. That poems says:

There are men whose words
Are as natural sounds
Of their places
As the cackle of toucans
In the place of toucans.

‘These are tentative ideas for the purposes of poetry’, Stevens wrote to one correspondent interested in the philosophy of ‘Sunday Morning’. This comment returns to my earlier point. Stevens, at this time, was trying to establish himself as a poet. Experimenting with Americanism served that purpose, even if he was unsure of its ultimate persuasiveness. Certainly it was not a coincidence that Stevens submitted Primordia to a new journal called the Soil, founded by the gallery owner Robert Coady. The founding editorial of the magazine was devoted to a description of ‘American Art’:

It is not a refined granulation nor a delicate disease—it is not an ism. It is not an illustration to a theory, it is an expression of life—a complicated life—American life.

The isms have crowded it out of ‘the art world’ and it has grown naturally, healthfully, beautifully. It has grown out of the soil and through the race and will continue to grow. It will grow and mature and add a new unit to art.[10]

Coady’s editorial is highly Whitmanesque, containing long lists of American items, names, and places: the automobile, the boxer Jack Johnson, Pittsburgh and Duluth, the Panama Canal. He mentions canonical American writers—Whitman, Poe, and Hawthorne—as well as Alfred Steiglitz and Gertrude Stein. In so doing Coady attempts to boost the standing of ‘American Art’ at the expense of its European competition: the ‘refined granulation’ of European cubism, the ‘delicate disease’ of European aestheticism. These ‘isms’, principally European in origin, were crowding American works out of the market. So American art had to be touted as something different: healthful, natural, ‘of the soil’. In so doing, of course, Coady was promoting his own theory, despite his disavowal of that word. He was, in effect, promoting an American ‘ism’.

‘Anyone interested in America’, Marcel Duchamp wrote a few months after Primordia appeared, ‘should read The Soil’.[11] Duchamp knew Robert Coady; it seems possible, even, that he mentioned the editor and his magazine to Wallace Stevens, as I haven’t been able to find any other obvious connection between Stevens and this magazine. Duchamp promoted Coady’s publication in the founding editorial of his own little magazine, the Blind Man, which he founded to accompany the Independents’ Exhibition of 1917. That exhibition was planned by the Society of Independent Artists, which included Arensberg and Duchamp among its founding members. They intended the show as a more free-wheeling sequel to the Armory Show, alike in scale and, perhaps, in its ability to shock. Duchamp submitted a work that, though not as famous as his Nude, was even more baffling to most who saw it. In keeping with his earlier comments in the Tribune and his more recent support of Robert Coady and the Soil, Duchamp’s new work was not cubist, but was, he claimed, distinctly American. Entitled Fountain, it was a common urinal, signed by Duchamp with the pseudonym R. Mutt. The R, Duchamp later explained, stood for Richard, a derogatory French term for an American. He took the last name from Mutt n’ Jeff, a popular American comic strip. Defending the work in the Blind Man, Duchamp wrote: ‘The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges’.

While Fountain was baffling to many, Wallace Stevens was better placed than most to make sense of it. Not only did he know personally all the principals involved in buying, submitting and defending the urinal, he is also likely to have seen Duchamp’s first readymades two years before, after his dinner with the artist and Walter Arensberg. When the three men left the Brevoort Hotel, they ‘went up to the Arensberg’s apartment and looked at some of Duchamp’s things’, as Stevens told Elsie in a letter. ‘I made very little of them. But naturally, without sophistication in that direction, and with only a very rudimentary feeling about art, I expect little of myself’ (L 185). Stevens’s use of the word ‘things’ to describe what he saw suggests the difficulty in labeling Duchamp’s readymades—the first of which, called ‘Bicycle Wheel’, was crafted in 1913[12]—as does his apparent inability to understand what he saw. Four years later, though, he understood Fountain enough to write a poem about it, I think. In that poem, one finds a deeply uncertain commentary on Americanism, which picks up on the tentativeness of Primordia and foreshadows the later difficulties of ‘The Comedian as the Letter C’. The poem, ‘Anecdote of the Jar’, stars another colonist of sorts, and has been called anti-imperialist. Whatever its political valence may be, it reflects the troubles, I think, that Stevens had in establishing his literary career.


Shortly after Fountain was submitted to the Independents’ Exhibition, William Carlos Williams completed the poems for his third collection, Al Que Quiere! He sent copies to a few friends, including Wallace Stevens, who noted in response that a ‘book of poems is a damned serious affair’. He had not published a book himself, he explained, because he had a ‘disdain for miscellany’. His ‘own ideas of discipline’, as he called them, included having a fixed point of view and sticking to it: ‘to fidget with points of view leads always to new beginnings and incessant new beginnings lead to sterility. A single manner or mood thoroughly matured and exploited’, he wrote, ‘is that fresh thing’.[13] This language of discipline and maturation, of progress, is the language of the post-Romantic literary career, according to Edward Said. Every writer, Said argues, ‘has an interest in preventing [his or her] work from degenerating into a miscellany of writings, governed successfully by neither personality nor time’.[14] Stevens, as is clear from his letter to Williams, felt he had not yet made his writing cohere, and so had not yet placed his career on a secure footing. This concern for his poetic status, in a sense, would lead him to write ‘From the Journal of Crispin’ in 1921, and it seems that the failure of that poem, dramatized in its revision, ‘The Comedian as the Letter C’, contributed to his hiatus from publishing. That failure is foreshadowed, I think, by the ambiguity of ‘Anecdote of the Jar’.

Williams responded to Stevens’s letter publicly in an essay that appeared in the Little Review in March of 1919.[15] The essay surveys the state of American art and particularly poetry. Williams notes in the essay that he ‘clashed’ with Wallace Stevens: unlike his friend, he believed in loosening, not fixing, his attention, so that his point of view could be challenged by objects in the outside world. He referred in this context to Arensberg and Duchamp, noting that some considered Fountain ‘a representative piece of American sculpture’. Williams may have had in mind the issue of the Blind Man in which the artist responsible for the pseudonymous Fountain was defended. ‘He took an ordinary article of life’, the defense read, ‘placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view—created a new thought for that object’.[16] Just at the moment that the essay by Williams, with its response to Stevens, appeared, Stevens himself was compiling a sequence of poems for Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine. Three months later, he sent Monroe three new poems, asking her to substitute them for some he had sent before. Among them was what appears to be, in part, a response to the essay by Williams, as well as the notorious work by Duchamp. I quote the poem in full, though I suspect many here may know it by heart.

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee. (CPP 60)

Stevens, in this poem, has re-enacted Duchamp’s artistic creation, at least as described in the Blind Man: an ‘ordinary article of life’ is ‘placed’, ‘its useful significance’ disappears, and a new title, ‘point of view’ and ‘thought for that object’, are created. Of course, Stevens has changed the setting. Rather than submitting that object to an art exhibition, Stevens has placed it in the Tennessee wilderness. Why the change? The goal of Americanism, as articulated by Williams, Coady and, to a lesser extent, Duchamp, was to represent or even embody America. The jar, the work of art, should, like the name of Jalmar Lillygreen, make a sound that is natural to its place. But that is not what happens here. Stevens demonstrates this with a pun. A jar is not only an ‘earthen vessel of cylindrical form’ but also a ‘harsh sound’, or ‘discord’. ‘Ajar’, as one word, means both ‘slightly open’, and also ‘out of harmony’.

The earliest debate about this poem centered on the question of whether Stevens was for the jar or for wilderness. I don’t think one needs to come down on either side, necessarily. But it must be said that, at least by the standards of Americanism, the jar in the poem is a failure as a work of art. Duchamp was said, in the Blind Man, to have created a new ‘point of view’ with Fountain; but Stevens believed, as he wrote to Williams, that ‘to fidget with points of view’ would ‘lead to sterility’. Stevens believed there was a style that the artist achieved and that that style had an inherent value. Quoting what he believed were representative lines from Williams, he told his friend: ‘A book of that would feed the hungry’. The jar in Tennessee, on the other hand, is sterile. It does ‘not give of bird or bush’. It can feed no one.

In the years after Harmonium, Stevens would take this discord between physical reality and our attempts to represent or embody it as his central theme. He would say ‘Farewell to Florida’, the site of his most enthusiastic poems of place, and he would concern himself instead with ‘Description Without Place’. But those poems are years away from the ‘Anecdote’. Why did Stevens move from his jar in Tennessee to the ‘Journal of Crispin’, which explores the Americanist idea at greater length than any poem he had written to that point? I suspect that Stevens was unsure, in 1919, whether the failure depicted in ‘Anecdote of the Jar’ was inherent in the project itself, or, rather, in the poet attempting to carry it out. When Stevens sent the poem to Monroe, he asked her to title the sequence Pecksniffiana, after the unsavory character described at length in the second chapter of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. Seth Pecksniff is ‘fuller of virtuous precept than a copy-book’, and is compared to a ‘direction-post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there’.[17] Stevens, in his self-deprecating way, may have seen in these lines an indictment of his own work. Though he filled his poetry with the names of places, he somehow failed to reach them. It would be two decades before he concluded that ‘we live in a place… that is not ourselves / And hard it is, in spite of blazoned days’.

[1] From “The Nude-Descending-a-Staircase Man Surveys Us,” New York Tribune, September 12, 1915, quoted by Francis M. Naumann, New York Dada: 1915-1923, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994, p. 36.

[2] As Holly Stevens notes, the letter is actually from June; Stevens mis-typed the date in his “clipping.”

[3] Quoted by Ellen Williams, Harriet Monroe and the Poetry Renaissance: The First Ten Years of Poetry, 1912-1922, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, p. 239. Aiken’s comments are on p. 178, and Henderson’s on p. 187.

[4] For the relationship between Futurism and Imagism, see Lawrence Rainey, Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. The Spectra manifesto is quoted in William Jay Smith, The Spectra Hoax, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1961, p. 8.

[5] Menand makes his argument in Discovering Modernism: T.S. Eliot and his Context, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. Rebecca West’s remark comes from “Imagisme,” in The New Freewoman, August 15th, 1913. Frank B. Gilbreth and Frederick W. Taylor were pioneers in the study of productivity and business management.

[6] Smith, p. 74.

[7] Peter Brazeau, Parts of a World: Wallace Stevens Remembered, New York: Random House, 1983, p. 12.

[8] Smith, p. 21.

[9] For the description of Primordia as “regionalist miniatures,” see Tony Sharpe, Wallace Stevens: A Literary Life, London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2000, p. 27. For the remark from Williams, see “Kenneth Burke,” in Imaginations, edited by Webster Scott, New York: New Directions, 1970, p. 356. Williams later expressed these views more fully in his own little magazine, Contact, which he founded in 1920 and to which Stevens would also contribute. D.H. Lawrence, who focused his 1922 Studies in Classic American Literature on the “spirit of place,” admired Williams’ ideas, as is evident in his review of In the American Grain entitled “American Heroes” and printed in the April 14th, 1926 issue of The Nation. The review is reprinted in William Carlos Williams: The Critical Heritage, edited by Charles Doyle, London and Boston: Routledge, 1980.

[10] Robert J. Coady, “American Art,” Soil 1 (December 1916), pp. 3-4. Information about Coady is provided by Judith K. Zilczer, “Robert J. Coady, Forgotten Spokesman for Avant-Garde Culture in America,” American Art Review, vol. 2, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1975).

[11] Quoted by Wanda M. Corn, The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001, p. 85.

[12] Naumann, pp. 38-41.

[13] Williams excerpted this letter in the prologue to Kora in Hell, which is reprinted in Poetry in Theory: An Anthology, 1900-2000, edited by Jon Cook, London: Blackwell Publishers, 2004, pp. 113-14.

[14] Edward Said, Beginnings: Intention and Method, New York: Basic Books, 1975, pp. 234-35.

[15] Part II of the essay was published in April; together these essays served as the prologue to Williams’s 1920 collection of “improvisations,” Kora in Hell.

[16] Quoted by Corn, p. 49.

[17] Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, London: Penguin Books, 2000, p. 24.