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Title: The queer child in the work of Elizabeth Bishop, John Ashbery, James Schuyler and Joe Brainard
Author: Cotton, Jessica
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 1189
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the interconnection between the lyric, childhood and sexuality in the work of four American poets. Theorising the relationship between childhood, modernist aesthetics and the lyric, it demonstrates how queer poets articulate and critique aesthetic forms which reproduce ‘structures of innocence’. Its contention is that sexuality is crucial to our thinking about the lyric and that the lyric provides a holding space for examining innocence. Some of the poems display an explicit concern with the gender, sexuality and race of the mid-century American child whilst others demonstrate the relationship between childishness, queer sensibility and an avant-garde poetics. The study undertakes extensive close readings across these poets’ work. Though its time frame runs from 1930 to 2000, the poets considered inhabit a roughly coterminous cultural moment when the image of childhood becomes a lynchpin in American cultural and political discourse and queer identity is rendered legible by legal and social change. It examines the figure of the prodigal child in Bishop, the eccentric child in Ashbery, the synecdochical relationship between mother and child in Schuyler’s poetics and the childhood snapshot in Brainard’s work. The study, which draws on queer, feminist, affect and psychoanalytic theory, considers the significance of the child as a cultural figure and the historically contingent relation between the child and aesthetic forms. The analysis is presented as typical and representative, as testament to the rich and varied dialogue between twentieth-century American poetics, queer autobiography, childhood and lyric form, where the pertinent question is framed as the relationship between these forms. The historical connection between the lyric and childhood-as-an-idea constitutes the starting-point for this discussion of poets who demonstrate the importance of contesting the representation of innocence in lyric form.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available