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'Then came a departure': writing loss in the Middle Generation

Hawthorn, Ruth (2012) 'Then came a departure': writing loss in the Middle Generation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.

Abstract

Building on recent studies of twentieth-century elegy, this thesis examines the re-working of elegiac tropes in the poetry of Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, John Berryman and Robert Lowell - four writers among the Middle Generation of American poets who share a persistent preoccupation with loss. As personal and national disappointments and bereavements are reflected in their distinctly elegiac poetics, their work overtly questions not only the possibility of finding consolation, but also the worth of their subject and the ability of language to express, with any conviction or accuracy, what has been lost. Highly conscious of the elegiac tradition, their work collectively distorts this genre, moulding it into a flexible mode which is more readily able to reflect the historical and cultural developments of the mid-twentieth century. Countering the still-prevalent view of these poets as “confessional” writers, this thesis’ focus on elegy challenges critics who have dismissed these four as solipsistic or narcissistic. Instead, they emerge as a group who were deeply invested in understanding their contemporary scene and whose most significant relationships were textual, rather than biographical. Their writing reveals an ongoing and serious engagement with one another’s work, as they built on each other’s poetic experiments. The thesis complicates the canonical divide which has entrenched these poets as the mainstream establishment, pitted against a more radical “postmodern” avant-garde, which includes the Beats, Black Mountain and the New York School. Through close textual analysis and an exploration of their links with Elizabeth Bishop, Schwartz, Jarrell, Berryman and Lowell are posited as poets whose engagement with the elegy has significantly altered the post-World War II poetic landscape.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: American Poetry, Elegy, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Middle Generation
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Coyle, Dr. John and Michael, Prof. Schmidt
Date of Award: 2012
Embargo Date: 31 October 2015
Depositing User: Dr Ruth Hawthorn
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3712
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:09
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3712

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