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Acts of Extended Inquiry: Idiosyncrasy and Phenomenology in American Poetics (1960s-Present)

Carbery, Matthew (2015) Acts of Extended Inquiry: Idiosyncrasy and Phenomenology in American Poetics (1960s-Present). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (KAR id:54983)

Language: English
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The driving ambition of this thesis lies in identifying and disclosing distinct and divergent examples of 20th century American long poems. This task will be carried out with a particular focus on stressing the idiosyncrasies of these practices rather than merely revising previous attempts at constructing a lineage or history of the American long poem. What is crucially at stake in this proposed critical movement is a distinction between ‘The Long Poem’ as an object of literary history as opposed to an ‘act of extended inquiry’ which can be comprehended in and on its own terms. In this task, I employ three key terms: Idiosyncrasy, Extension and Inquiry, which together frame my project as a disclosure of how poetic texts extend idiosyncratically over significant length, breadth and depth. In discussing ‘idiosyncrasy’ I necessarily negotiate questions of subjectivity, perception, intersubjectivity— namely, the questions which are proposed and explored by phenomenology. In this regard, my methodology is informed by a phenomenological taxonomy, developed from the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. The grouping of poets featured in this thesis are all American writers who have published extended works since the 1950s, and each is associated to varying extents with schools of avant-garde, post-Modernist or ‘New’ poetics. George Oppen has been regarded as an ‘Objectivist’ poet and is often discussed alongside his contemporaries Zukofsky, Lorine Niedecker and Charles Reznikoff; James Schuyler’s close association with Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest and John Ashbery locate him among the New York School in the 1950s; Robin Blaser was instrumental in many of the publications and events which surrounded the San Francisco Renaissance; Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe and Leslie Scalapino all published poems and works of poetics in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school publications in the 1970s-80s; and Rachel Blau DuPlessis has worked since the 1970s with both Language and Objectivist poetics, though her sustained interest in and engagement with ‘the long poem’ distinguishes her as a leading figure in the discourse of extended poetics in her own right. In each of these readings, significant efforts are made to discuss each poet outside of their conventional place within their ‘school’ or ‘tradition’. The purpose of this is to seek access to the idiosyncrasies of poets and their works as opposed to merely relying on generalised reckonings. In this manner, the specific ways in which individual poets extend their poetics into substantial inquiries will be made apparent using the terms employed by the poets themselves. It is my intention for this thesis to stand as an opening of the discourse of ‘The American Long Poem’ to complex and developed questions of extension in poetry, with a view to framing 20th century American poetics as being particularly oriented towards carrying out intellectual and perceptive inquiries in the form of works of poetic extension.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Herd, David
Thesis advisor: Mildenberg, Ariane
Uncontrolled keywords: Poetry Poetics America Phenomenology Philosophy Longpoem
Subjects: E History America
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council (
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2016 13:00 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 01:54 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Carbery, Matthew.

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