Partial sight, dependency and open poetic forms

Watt, Nuala Catherine Morley (2015) Partial sight, dependency and open poetic forms. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis aims to characterize the poetics of partial sight. It first places these poetics within a theoretical framework and then enacts them in a collection of poems. The thesis treats partial sight not primarily as a physiological fact but rather as symbolic of the limitations of human vision. It draws inspiration from the Homeric epics, which acknowledge these limits and show the dependency they bring, whether on the Muse or on other factors external to the poet’s conscious self, as central to poetic composition. The persistent trope of the blind poet, who loses his sight but gains creative vision, highlights links between partial sight and the partial apprehension that poets experience as they engage with an emerging poem. Both situations highlight the partial nature of human perception in a mysterious world and both necessitate dependency on factors beyond the self for success. Critically and creatively the thesis charts an evolving awareness of the importance of partial sight in poetic composition.

This awareness has gradually inspired perspectival and methodological changes. The project began as a desire to challenge those poetic representations of blindness that cast it less as a valuable creative perspective than as a symbol of anxiety about dependency and consequent lack of agency. Early versions of the thesis sought to challenge this pattern by asserting the selfhood of figures with visual impairment as part of a disability-based identity poetics. This practice encouraged the use of relatively closed forms that stressed a speaker’s personal vision. However, as the thesis developed it took more account of the power dynamics that underpin poetic form. It became apparent that an overly closed approach could undermine the project’s aims by replicating poetic practices that have facilitated the use of blindness in poetry as an edifying spectacle for sighted readers. Such formal choices can also create a sense of certainty that troubles an aesthetic of partial sight. Moreover, the thesis argues that to confine discussions of partial sight to identity poetics radically restricts our understanding of the poetics of partial sight, dependency and open forms and leaves these poetics insufficiently imagined.

It draws on the work of Alan Grossman, Rae Armantrout and Larry Eigner among others, to reimagine partial sight and dependency as a route to poetic knowledge. The poetry collection moves from exploring partial sight as a source of identity to using the combination of partial sight and dependency as a generative principle. Different poems express this principle through troubled syntax, variable lineation and the deformation by erasure of pre-existing texts on blindness. The thesis seeks to demonstrate that partial sight and dependency are experiences shared by, and relevant to, all writers and readers of poetry. It returns to an earlier understanding of these factors, which sees them not as sources of social anxiety, but rather as creative catalysts that open the way to new poetic possibilities. In so doing it aims to challenge understandings not only of poetics but also of the meaning of disability.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Robinson, Prof. Jeffrey
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6289
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 May 2015 15:09
Last Modified: 02 May 2018 14:43

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