Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980. Octavo, publisher's beige cloth lettered in black, dark brown endpapers, supplied clipped typographic dust jacket. Inscribed in ink on the title page: “For Henry Nash Smith, / admiringly, / from Helen Vendler.” Pencil notation to verso of final blank, author photograph from original dust jacket mounted to final pastedown.
First edition of influential literary critic Helen Vendler's fourth book, a collection of short essays and book reviews dealing with a wide range of modern American poets: Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Frank O'Hara, Adrienne Rich, James Merrill, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, and many others. Vendler has inscribed this copy to Henry Nash Smith, one of the founders of American Studies as a discipline and a pioneer of the “Myth and Symbol” school: Smith's 1950 study Virgin Land, which examines the idea of the American West in the nineteenth century, remains a critical landmark. Vendler's essays reflect a different approach: “There are various perspectives -- regional, historical, ideological -- from which to describe the depth and genuineness of modern poetry in America. My own preference is to focus on poets one by one, to find in each the idiosyncratic voice wonderfully different from any other.” A fine copy, with an excellent scholarly association.