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Title: "I think I feel my thinking-self and how it stands" : self and cognitive identity in the poetry of Jorie Graham
Author: Alghamdi, Mariam Ahmad M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 3077
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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This work aims to reconsider how we think about identity in the poetry of Jorie Graham by employing neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s theory of the cognitively structured ‘autobiographical self’. Damasio’s specialised usage of the ‘autobiographical self’ refers to a multi-levelled and ever-changing mental process whose emergence in the brain simultaneously generates conscious awareness of oneself in the present moment that is linked to the past and future. Employing the cognitive model of identity formation is not meant to be an alternative to Graham’s gendered and social identities. Instead, Damasio’s theory serves to explicate the poet’s view of herself as a cognitively shifting and embodied self who is moulded by embodiment and environmental situatedness. The cognitive literary approach utilised in this thesis intervenes in the discursive shift between an essential, centred self proposed by Romantic epistemology and the post-structuralist model, which emphasises the fragmented, decentred nature of the subject. The thesis traces the chronological evolution of Graham’s sense of self in a selection of poems from 12 volumes to reveal her progression away from an expression of a hidden, impersonal self to a fully-developed autobiographical self. Chapter 1 introduces Graham’s poetic oeuvre and offers an account of Damasio and his cognitive theory. Chapter 2 details the politics and poetics manifested in Graham’s forty-year career. Chapter 3 investigates the poet’s attentiveness to cognition commencing with meditations on a detached mind in Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts (1980), Erosion (1983), The End of Beauty (1987), and Region of Unlikeness (1991). Chapter 4 inspects the poet’s deeply introspective meditations in Materialism (1993), The Errancy (1997), Swarm (2000) and Never (2002). Chapter 5 interrogates the poems in Overlord (2005) and Sea Change (2008) which incorporate embodied interpretations of the political and ecological climate of the United States in the 21st century into Graham’s expressions of identity. Chapter 6 probes the autobiographical self and Graham’s shifts of identity impacted by individual experiences and personal loss in Place (2012) and Fast (2017).
Supervisor: Middleton, Peter ; Marsh, Nicola Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available