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Title: Landscape, imperialism, and individualism in post-war American poetry : opposition and 'the greater romantic lyric'
Author: Foley, Hugh
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 3473
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis discusses how a genre of poem I am calling the 'greater Romantic lyric', after the critic M.H. Abrams-a descriptive, meditative poem centring on the poet's interaction with the landscape-becomes associated with ideas central to American politics. Freedom, individualism, and indeed, the landscape itself, terms which are important to the genre's history, are also central to an American identity that becomes troubling in the period following World War Two. I argue that this closeness between national and generic identity demanded a response from poets who opposed the political direction of their nation. My thesis reveals the intersections of the critique of an American ideology of individualism-which critics often locate in classic works of American literature-with the post-war landscape poem. What is attempted is not a discussion of the rights or wrongs of claims about the ideological character of certain works of American literature. Rather, the thesis considers the different forms in which poets apprehended the political complicities of their literary inheritance. In the post-war period, as U.S. power became increasingly hegemonic and yet arguably justified its power with a rhetoric of individual freedom, it became essential for poets to reckon with the contradictions in this rhetoric; this task changed many poets' self-understanding, and their approach to their own influences. The thesis claims that poets have prefigured, responded to, and even challenged criticisms of poetic subjectivity, and shows how they have employed the resources of the greater Romantic lyric for these purposes. After an introduction which lays out the framework of my thesis, each subsequent chapter focuses on the works of one significant poet of the period, examining their writings in relation to debates about individualism, and about poetic representations of the self and the landscape. The poets discussed are Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Ashbery, and Jorie Graham. I read one major poem in each chapter as being in the tradition of the greater Romantic lyric, demonstrating how it modifies that tradition in the light of contemporary ideas about politics, the self, and the United States. With reference to points of stress in American history, especially overseas military ventures, the chapters thus explore how poets work against simple understandings of the landscape poem, seeking resources that might distinguish the poetic subject from the object of critique.
Supervisor: Whitworth, Michael ; Pratt, Lloyd Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available