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Religions 2017, 8(4), 54;

The Negative Theology of Wallace Stevens’s “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”

Department of French and Italian, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, 37235 TN, USA
Academic Editor: Kevin Hart
Received: 6 February 2017 / Revised: 22 March 2017 / Accepted: 29 March 2017 / Published: 1 April 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue English Poetry and Christianity)
Full-Text   |   PDF [191 KB, uploaded 7 April 2017]


The supreme fiction is the one that cannot be said or represented at all. Like a negative theologian; Stevens starts from a position of critical reflection that can no longer naively believe in the myths of the gods. They have become fiction rather than revelation. And yet this supreme fiction; now become nameless; nevertheless animates all his desire: “For what; except for you; do I feel love?” These myths or fictions bring him peace of mind in vivid transparence; even though he can assign them no definite reference in reality. What becomes transparent in this late age of critical reflection is that the world we see and talk about is an “invented world,” the product of our own imagination and language. This destroys our naive belief in the myths projected by our language. Our gods die. Yet precisely this realization can open us to that “heaven/That has expelled us and our images,” the heaven that we do not perceive and cannot conceive—since it is beyond the reach of language. View Full-Text
Keywords: imagination; invention; negation; Platonism; poetry; mystery imagination; invention; negation; Platonism; poetry; mystery
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Franke, W. The Negative Theology of Wallace Stevens’s “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”. Religions 2017, 8, 54.

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