A reading of the poetry of Robert Lowell in relation to developments in poetics since 1930
This thesis is an examination of how an
original reading of Lowell's poetry may be made
when his work is considered in relation to the
move away from New Critical formalism.
In Chapter I I investigate how far the
critical ideas of John Crowe Ransom and Allen
Tate result from their shared philosophy and
ideology. In Chapter II I begin the reading of
Lowell's poetry, examining particularly how his
formal poetics are supported by his faith and by
a philosophy similar to that of Ransom and Tate.
In Chapter III I show how with The Mills of
the Kavanaughs (~95~) the intricate relationship
between Lowell's faith and his poetics breaks down.
In Chapter IV I explore the change in Lowell's
poetics which Life Studies (1959) instituted,
focussing closely on several poems.
In Chapter V I examine poems from For the
Union Dead (1964) and Near the Ocean (1967), in
the context of the anti-formalism established in
Lowell's style with Life Studies. I also consider
the claim that Lowell is a "public" poet, and analyse
the ways in which these books are "public."
In Chapter VI I examine History (1973) and
Day by Day (1977). These books insist on the
provisional nature of poetry and its knowledge, and
anticipate a decade of more radical anti-formalism.
In the Conclusion I bring together the themes
of the thesis and consider the claim that Lowell is
a post-modernist writer. One of the conclusions I
draw is that Lowell's changed poetics must be seen
as the result of his personal loss of faith rather
than reflecting only a dissatisfaction with the New