S-Space College of Humanities (인문대학) English Language and Literature (영어영문학과) 영학논집(English Studies) 영학논집(English Studies) No.29 (2009)
월러스 스티븐스의 욕망과 육체의 미학: 「건반 앞의 피터 퀸스」를 중심으로
The Aesthetics of Desire and Body: Wallace Stevens' "Peter Quince at the Clavier"
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 인문대학 영어영문학과
- 영학논집, Vol.29, pp. 167-182
- Stevens shows his unique poetic thought in his famous poem "Peter Quince at the Clavier." The speaker of the poem, Peter Quince, whose name comes from Shakespeare's play, is not only telling Stevens' poetics directly but also producing one small play to show this poetics vividly. This small play-in-poem, which is about the episode of Susanna and two elders, is usually interpreted as a story of "saving figure" Susanna and two '%bawdy" elders, and this poem as a praise for Susanna. However, if the poetics of the poem is considered, this episode should be understood as an example of Stevens' poetics, not an independent story.
In this poem, Stevens contrasts "beauty in the mind" and 'beauty in the flesh to subvert the fixed, old thought which puts "beauty in the mind" superior. The speaker Peter Quince says that "music is feeling," and this feeling is provoked by "desiring you." Here we can see the connection between art and desire. Then he presents the play of Susanna and two elders. The characteristics of Susanna's world is its soundlessness. Like a silent film, she lies, walks, feels without any auditory imagery. By this, Stevens shows that Susanna's beauty is a fxed, inanimated one. She feels, however, that there is something missing in her world, so she touches, searches and sighs despite of the calm beauty of her state. This silent scene breaks by the two elder's desire. Then, with this bawdy desire, Susanna's beauty becomes animated. In part N, the speaker says that 'Beauty is momentary in the mind" "but in the flesh it is immortal." This paradoxical statement presents Stevens poetics effectively. Susanna's beauty gets life when
it arouse two elder's desire. And the two elder's bawdy desire makes music. Her beauty becomes immortal in this music.
Stevens does not show the process of chaste Susanna becoming "a constant sacrament of praise," but presents how desire and body, which generally shown as bawdy and vulgar, can make immortal music or poetry. The poet's intention is to break the old ideas which has covered the "realityn and to reveal the "reality" through the act of imagination, which is "desiren in this poem.