Jianer Lin

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation studies Wallace Stevens' poetry from the perspective of Daoism (Taoism). It consists of eight chapters. After brief surveys of Stevens' own references to and contact with China in Chapter 1 and of the critical history of this subject in Chapter 2 and a brief introduction of Daoism in Chapter 3, the dissertation concentrates on the discussion of Stevens' poetry in terms of Daoism in the remaining five chapters. Each of these chapters deals with one particular aspect of Dao as embedded in Stevens' writings. Chapter 4 considers the similarity in Stevens' and the Daoist view of reality, which sees the cosmos, far from being created by a god and recreated by man through his senses and intellect, as a self-created, self-contained, and self-operated, independent organism. This view of the relationship between man and reality influences Stevens' theory of "supreme fiction," his idea of the nature of language, his aesthetic principle of suggestion, and his theory of metaphor—"resemblance." Chapter 5 examines Stevens' conception of hero and heroism, which resembles that in Daoism in its emphasis on the hero's ability to forget self, to eliminate dualism, and to merge the self into the whole of nature. Chapter 6 considers Stevens' idea of the creative imagination from the perspective of Wu Wei (the Daoist principle of inaction). It particularly examines the symbolic functions of such images as the jar, the mirror (or glass), and the wanderer in Stevens' poems. Chapter 7 focuses on an explication of "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," using the Daoist Yin and Yang theory (the unity of opposites). Finally, Chapter 8 examines Stevens' concept of change, which, like the concept of change in Daoism, regards change as a constant shuttle between two opposites and hence as a circular movement. Crispin's experience in "The Comedian" is used as an illustration.

The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that Stevens is a Daoist in his way of thinking, in his aesthetic taste, and in his philosophy of man and nature and their relationship.