“I am otherwise”: The Romance between Poetry and Theory after the Death of the Subject
The broad questions the dissertation poses are 1) What is the poet's relationship with language? and 2) How do post-structuralist theories of linguistically constituted subjectivity affect how and what the poet writes? The examination applies this issue to a range of American poets working in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the new theories of how language and literature worked were being spread through the academy and the general culture alike. The dissertation's method first reads a poet's work from this period with a keen focus on what her poems both explicitly and implicitly say about language. Then, the work of a theorist, whose work is contemporaneous with the poet, explication in terms of its consequences for language and subjectivity. Finally, the two – poet and theorist – are engaged in a dialectic that exhibits how theories of language affect how and what a poet writes. The dissertation proposes four poetic relationships with language. Using the poetry of Adrienne Rich and the theory of Harold Bloom, anxiety is determined to be the initial way a poet relates to language. Subversive irony quells such anxiety, according to the poetry of John Ashbery and the deconstructionism of Paul de Man. Maurice Blanchot conceptualizes a space of literature which allows a poet like Jorie Graham to anguish herself out of existence. Alternatively, a Language poet like Barrett Watten so obsesses over language that he comes upon a relationship with language that is like psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's theory of subjective destitution in which one uses language but is divested of its meaningful influence of anxiety, irony, and anguish. The dissertation determines the inauguration of a new kind of poetry, one which merges poetry and theory. One of the results of the study finds that the new theoretical poetry suffers itself to understand language's effect on subjectivity and then clear away the saturation of language in order to construct a subjectivity that exists both inside and outside the realm of language. Whereas poets of the past tarried with philosophy or criticism, poets of this time period unite lyric feeling with literary theory.
School:The Ohio State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:language post structuralism critical theory contemporary american poetry psychoanalysis existentialism adrienne rich john ashbery jorie graham barrett watten harold bloom paul de man maurice blanchot jacques lacan
Date of Publication:01/01/2003