Modernist Quartet is a study of the four major American modernist poets--Frost, Stevens, Pound, Eliot--in various historical environments (literary, philosophical, gender relations, the business of capitalist economics) with special attention given to their central poetic texts as they simultaneously reflect and shape our understanding of those environments. Frank Lentricchia presents the poems as stories of the poets seeking to sustain a life in noncommercial writing, in a culture that is only hospitable, for the most part, to commercial art.
I can't think of any piece of recent literary criticism that more astutely and usefully combines text and context, close readings of selected poems (and acute, telling remarks about many, many others) with salient readings of American culture ... At times, as I read passages where Lentricchia really lets himself go ... pushes his subject beyond where you'd expect him to push it - at these times, I thought of R. P. Blackmur ... This is major criticism of high imaginative power, about as inclusive as one could hope for. William Pritchard, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, author of Lives of the Modern Poets