Bonnie Costello: On "Study of Two Pears"

The problem of Modernism's negations (especially Cubist negations) is again the subject of "Study of Two Pairs," whose title clearly invokes visual arts. The concerns of the body of the poem - shape, color, outline, resemblance - also derive from painting. As does Cubist painting, the poem suggests both a struggle to see reality as it is and to create and imaginative reality. The poem ends ironically, for while the pears are not seen as the observer wills (not as viols, nudes, or bottles), it is only these willed images that are seen. The poem seems to move in this direction toward the last two stanzas where the reality of the pears is entirely elusive - a glistening at bests. Even their shadows are only defined as "blobs on the green cloth." The dull, flat language of "Study of Two Pears" may reflect the dullness of bandage to visual fact. Such objectivism is only an "opusculum paedagogum." But the poem also perhaps testifies to the failure of language to represent adequately the allure of visual fact (it "glistens"). Without metaphor (without viols, nudes, or bottles) language is nothing, and yet metaphor implies an evasion, a removal from positive direct experience. Stevens' ambivalence about the eye centers, then, on his allusions to painting. Here his own stance as observer/describer seems inadequate to capture observation. The poem does not offer an equivalence in language to Cubist concerns and techniques, but rather a description of those concerns and techniques, a substitution rather than an apposition.

From "Effects of an Analogy: Wallace Stevens and Painting. In Albert Gelpi (ed.) Wallace Stevens: The Poetics of Modernism. Cambridge University Press.


Title Bonnie Costello: On "Study of Two Pears" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Bonnie Costello Criticism Target Wallace Stevens
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 05 Dec 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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