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Title: A necessary difficulty : the poethics of proximity in John Ashbery and Michael Palmer
Author: McCarthy, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 5915 7926
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2015
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Both John Ashbery and Michael Palmer are noticeably absent from recent surveys of the ethical turn in innovative American poetry during the latter half of the twentieth century. By analysing the work produced during the first half of their careers as they write a poetic subject into existence, this thesis will demonstrate that the reason for this absence is due to the “necessary difficulty” of their respective poetic projects. Rather than identifying particular personal and political issues that might help explain away the difficulty of their work, my reading of Ashbery and Palmer will illustrate how difficulty is the constitutive feature of the ethical considerations and commitments informing their attempt to call attention to the initiating encounter between self and other that permits ethical praxis in the first place. Using a methodology derived from Mikhail Bakhtin’s aesthetic theories and Emmanuel Levinas’ phenomenological ethics, Ashbery and Palmer will be shown to enact a “poethic sensibility” that reconfigures reading and writing poetry as a way of living in the social world of others as a responsive and responsible subject. Furthermore, the concern they exhibit regarding their own ethical subjectivity will be shown to extend to the reader’s, as s/he is encouraged to realise his/her own “response-ability” through the lived experience of proximity engendered by their necessarily difficult texts. By departing from the presupposition that the poem and the self it represents and/or articulates are intended to be properly comprehended by another person, this thesis will explore the ethical encounter that occurs between the poet and the reader at the very limits of the known and knowable, where “(my)Self” encounters “(an)Other” in its absolute, irreducible alterity as the constitutive moment of ethical subjectivity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available