Wallace Stevens Academic Discourse at Havana

Wallace Stevens Academic Discourse at Havana

Reading of "Academic Discourse at Havana"

Romantic poet known for multiple works, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, Biographia Literaria, Lyrical Ballads (co-authored with Wordsworth). Close companion of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and a member of the Lake Poets, poets associated with the Lake Region in England. Coleridge suffered from depression and anxiety, and became addicted to opium. Coleridge is a well-known influence of major figures, such as Emerson and American transcendentalism.

Connections to Stevens:Edit

“Academic Discourse at Havana,” line 21 (iii.9): “The twilights of the mythy goober khan” 

A clear reference in Stevens’s poem to Samuel Taylor Colegridge’s poem Kubla Khan. 

Ragg views this poem as a connection to Stevens’s silence: “In ‘Academic Discourse at Havana’ doubts emerge concerning the poet’s role. In other words, this poem, written just before and revised immediately after the poet’s silence, provides possible textual clues as to why Stevens stopped writing and why he resumed in the early 1930s with a pointedly abstract vocabulary” (35). Ragg’s work of literary criticism focuses on Stevens, Coleridge, and the imagination and philosophical implications in their works. 

Helen Vendler also makes connections between Coleridge and Stevens: “Coleridge, who wrote the seminal poem of this theme, which he called Constancy to an Ideal Object, protects his ignorant protagonist, the woodman, form the knowledge that the phantom he pursues is one created in the fog by his own shadow. In the figure of the enraptured rustic, Coleridge shows us the mind which has realized the fictionality of all supreme fictions” (31). She also notes that “Stevens is one of the last writers to experience fully the nineteenth-century crisis of the death of God; and he learned from Shelley and Coleridge the connection of the loss of religious faith with the loss of sexual faith” (30). 

William Van O’Connor compares Coleridge and Stevens since “both see the imagination as a way of establishing communion with nature and enjoying it in the transformed shapes and colors the imagination makes possible” (qtd in Perlis 24


  • Leggett, B.J. “Why It Must Be Abstract: Stevens, Coleridge, and I.A. Richards.” Studies in Romanticism 22.4 (1983): 489-501. 
  • Perlis, Alan D. Wallace Stevens: A World of Transforming Shapes. Cranbury: Associated UP, 1976. Google Books. Web. 
  • Vendler, Helen. “Desire: ‘The Lover, the Believer, and the Poet.” Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1984. Google Books. Web. 
  • Ragg, Edward. Wallace Stevens and the Aesthetics of Abstraction. New York: Cambridge UP, 2010. Google Books. Web.