Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: American modernism and the poetics of labour
Author: Grogan, Kristin Alexandria
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 0446
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
This thesis argues for the relationship between the labour of the modernist poet and changes in working conditions and working culture in the twentieth century. Spanning the years 1903-1974, my research shows how modernist writers engaged with discussions around labour movements, labouring technologies, radical politics, and the relationship between work, race, and gender, and how this shaped how they conceived of their own writing as constituting a new kind of work. While accounts of modernism have stressed its aesthetic experimentalism, my dissertation is the first sustained analysis of how that experimental work emerged out of a growing awareness in literary culture of what labour in general meant. My dissertation thus presents a new reading of the formal innovations of U.S. modernist poetry-a reading grounded in historical research, theoretical thinking around labour, and close textual analysis. The first chapter argues that Ezra Pound conceived of labour in ethical terms, as palliative or curative, and that this had determining effects on both his modernist aesthetics and Fascist politics. My second chapter looks at the impact of individualism and theories of collective labour on the poetry of Langston Hughes, especially the Constructivist aesthetics of his 1938 pamphlet A New Song. Chapter Three explores the relationship between experimental writing and activities deemed valueless by the gendered logic of capital in the experimental poetics of Gertrude Stein. Finally, my fourth chapter, on the Objectivist poets George Oppen, Lorine Niedecker, and Louis Zukofsky explores the residue of modernist labour in the post-war "golden age" of capitalism and the restructuring of work. If modernism can be considered the major set of formal upheavals of the twentieth century, my dissertation offers a new historical and theoretical basis for those upheavals while also engaging in new readings of modernism's diverse aesthetic experimentation. I suggest that modernist aesthetics are best conceived not as mere iconoclastic destruction of the past, but as attentiveness to the changing social and ethical role of labour in the twentieth century, when what it meant to be a worker, and a writer, was open to new interpretations and possibilities.
Supervisor: Beasley, Rebecca Sponsor: Clarendon Fund ; Exeter College ; Rothermere American Institute ; Hertford College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available