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Title: An invisible terrain : John Ashbery and nature
Author: Ross, Stephen Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 8033
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis reads John Ashbery as a major poetic thinker about nature whose work convenes a multitude of nature writing traditions, from classical pastoral to the 21st-century eco-sublime. Challenging a critical consensus that would cast Ashbery as either a belated romantic in search of lost nature or an arch-postmodernist who dissolves "nature" into text, this study reveals his deep historical awareness of the transmission and collision of literary ecologies. The poet who emerges delights in putting different poetic natures into contact with each other—and in humorously making nature unnatural. Surveying Ashbery’s long historical moment, the thesis uses four terms of critique—transparency, vagrancy, flow, and badness—to map his "invisible terrain." Chapter one historicizes Ashbery’s turn to a poetics of contradictory "transparencies" during his sojourns in France from 1956-1965 and his concurrent dream of writing poems that would be like "natural landscapes" in a world of "painted ones." Chapter two considers the pastoral and anti-pastoral topoi of Ashbery’s Vietnam-era poetry and his tendency to "wander away" from political commitment. Chapter three examines Ashbery’s recurrent tropes of "flow" and his tendency to literalize the stream-of-consciousness metaphor and "dissolve" his own style at decisive moments of his career. Chapter four reads the "bad" nature poetry of Ashbery’s late period (1987 to the present) as the culmination of a career-long investment in camp irony’s "good taste of bad taste" and as a response to ecological crisis. The coda, a survey of Ashbery’s critical prose, examines his penchant for “a completely new kind of realism."
Supervisor: Bush, Ronald Sponsor: Clarendon Fund ; Rothermere American Institute
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: American literature in English ; English Language and Literature ; American poetry ; John Ashbery ; nature writing ; nature poetry ; eco-theory