In Wallace Stevens and the Demands of Modernity, Charles Altieri is assiduous and dutiful in his attention to Stevens’s career and to his readings of specific poems, but it is his subtitle (Toward a Phenomenology of Value) that articulates the larger ambition of the book, which is to stake a claim for the independent value of the arts. Such a defense is especially important in the face of recent emphases on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). The book’s overarching claim is that Stevens “offers one of our richest demonstrations of the pressures that Enlightenment attitudes impose on our ways of thinking, especially on our ways of formulating values that will not seem outdated or evasive of the powers of science” (7). STEM programs will no doubt continue to receive attention, accolades, and funds, but in this book Altieri makes a thoughtful bid to defend the arts and humanities by distinguishing fact from value, or epistemology from phenomenology. Phenomenology allows Altieri to focus on the experiential and affective domains of experience, topics central to his earlier book, The Particulars of Rapture. In retrospect, that Stevensian title now reads as something of a harbinger to Altieri’s current study.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jeffrey_westover/18/