H.D. : sublimity and beauty in her early work (1912-1925)
The purpose of this thesis is to study the poetry written by H.D. between 1912- 1925 in relation to two Romantic categories: beauty and sublimity. I shall attempt to show how H.D. subverts and revises the Romantic sublime offering alternatives that can be identified with a "female sublime". A direct consequence of such revision will be her commitment to beauty, which acts in her poems as a generative drive. Her understanding of beauty will be shown to have its roots in Sappho, Plato and the Victorian Hellenists, among others, and to have undergone analogous transformations to those of sublimity. Chapter I reopens the debate around Imagism and Imagist poetry showing that the problem of defining what Imagism is or was originates in the overwhelming authority of theory versus praxis. My goal is to deconstruct the critical fallacies on which Imagism has been built and to free the poetry which it represents. This allows me to question the myth of H.D. as "Imagiste" and to open her early poetry to new readings and interpretations. In Chapter n, I review the theoretical background to the aesthetics of the sublime represented by Longinus, Burke, Kant and Wordsworth. I also establish the critical frame within which this research will take place, drawing on Thomas Weiskel, Patricia Yaeger and Joanne Diehl. I initiate a study of sublimity in H.D.'s first volume, Sea Garden, and show the alternative treatment that this Romantic genre receives from this female poet. H.D.'s revisions of the Romantic sublime take us in Chapter m to a study of her poetics, as presented in her essay "Notes on Thought and Vision". I discuss a variety of sources for the composition of these "Notes", such as Havelock Ellis' influence, H.D.'s letters to John Cournos and her friendship with D.H. Lawrence. I show how H.D. understands artistic and poetic creativity as 'vision' and how the recovery of the abject female body allows her to formulate a notion of creativity that transcends gender. Chapter IV, pursues H.D.'s transformations of the Romantic sublime in Hymen, and presents Sappho as a model for the fusion of sublimity, love and eroticism in the poems of this volume. Chapter V begins with a theoretical discussion surrounding the aesthetics of the beautiful in relation to Chapter II. It continues with H.D.'s understanding of beauty within her essays, in particular, "Responsibilities", "Notes on Thought and Vision" and "Notes on Euripides, Pausanius and Greek Lyric Poets". In the light of recent work on Pater's masculine model of Hellenic beauty, I discuss H.D.'s own configuration of beauty.