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'Lyric realism' to 'Epic consciousness' : poetic subjectivity in the work of Edward Dorn

Armstrong, John Patrick (2008) 'Lyric realism' to 'Epic consciousness' : poetic subjectivity in the work of Edward Dorn. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis looks at Edward Dorn's work from his early poems in the late 1950's to Gunslinger, his mock epic of the American West written between 1968 and 1974. The overall background premise to the present study is that, in this period, Dorn's work develops from a form of lyric, in his early work, to the construction of a multiple and epic consciousness within the four books of Gunslinger. Some critics of Dorn see quite radical shifts within this development, which often leads to a 'periodizing' of Dorn's work. But this thesis argues for a strong continuity that runs alongside these shifts, driven by a consistent anti-capitalism that informs Dorn's writing. Chapter 1 assesses several of Dorn's early poems and finds within the construction of his poetic subject, a tendency to undo and undermine the traditional lyric voice of interiority. Comparisons are made with Frost and Thoreau, and Olson is introduced as Dorn's first and foremost major influence. The poet's dealing with 'otherness' is considered, as are the influence of Whitman and Blake among others, with the aim of placing Dorn in a literary sense, and showing how his poetry continues and subverts various traditions and conventions of poetry, In Chapter 2, examples of Dorn's prose works - short stories, sketches and his autobiographical novel By the Sound (1971) - are explored both in their own terms and as experiential backdrop to the poetry. This section is particularly concerned with Dorn's configuration of poverty in his work and how it is consstructed as a form of American otherness. Chapter 3's primary concern is with Dorn's treatment of the American West in his 1964 volume Hands Up! Particularly important here is Dorn's undemining of myth, its process of privileging certain stories to the detriment of history, and the West's reliance on capitalism. The second half of this chapter continues these ideas through an assessment of "The Land Below". Chapter 4 critiquse Geography (1965) through the influence of Charles Olson and the cultural geographer Carl Otwin Sauer. The first half is concerned with Dorn's push for expansiveness in his poetry and his attempts to achieve, what he calls, a "condition of the simultaneous." The second half of the chapter however, locates in this collection, a poetics of melancholy and isolation that is more in keeping with his early work and in tension with his development toward epic. Chapter 5 assesses The North Atlantic Turbine (1967), focusing primarily on the two long poems of the volume, "The North Atlantic Turbine" and "Oxford." This section looks at the further expansion in Dorn's poetics with the collection's global reach, and also considers the introduction of the experimentation with 'made-up' voices. The final chapter on Gunslinger looks first at Dorn's treatment of the first-person pronoun as a continuation of his consistent testing of poetic subjectivity. Also explored, are "The Cycle" and Dorn's creation of Robart as a monstrous manifestation of capiralism and finally, how the poem utilises the genre of eopc. The goal of the thesis is to explore beneath the presumptions about Dorn's development as a poet and understand how the complexities of such a development are played out within the texts themselves. Also, the aim here is to show how the movement from lyric to epic takes place in Dorn's work by very gentle degrees and is inextricably connected to his anti-capitalist politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Selby, Nick
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-502
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/502

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