A Necessary Difficulty: The Poethics of Proximity in John Ashbery and Michael Palmer

Mc Carthy, David (2015) A Necessary Difficulty: The Poethics of Proximity in John Ashbery and Michael Palmer. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Name: David Mc Carthy
Submission Date: September 2015
Title: A Necessary Difficulty: The Poethics of Proximity in John Ashbery and Michael Palmer
Both John Ashbery and Michael Palmer are noticeably absent from recent surveys of the ethical
turn in innovative American poetry during the latter half of the twentieth century. By analysing
the work produced during the first half of their careers as they write a poetic subject into
existence, this thesis will demonstrate that the reason for this absence is due to the “necessary
difficulty” of their respective poetic projects. Rather than identifying particular personal and
political issues that might help explain away the difficulty of their work, my reading of Ashbery
and Palmer will illustrate how difficulty is the constitutive feature of the ethical considerations
and commitments informing their attempt to call attention to the initiating encounter between
self and other that permits ethical praxis in the first place. Using a methodology derived from
Mikhail Bakhtin’s aesthetic theories and Emmanuel Levinas’ phenomenological ethics,
Ashbery and Palmer will be shown to enact a “poethic sensibility” that reconfigures reading
and writing poetry as a way of living in the social world of others as a responsive and
responsible subject. Furthermore, the concern they exhibit regarding their own ethical
subjectivity will be shown to extend to the reader’s, as s/he is encouraged to realise his/her own
“response-ability” through the lived experience of proximity engendered by their necessarily
difficult texts. By departing from the presupposition that the poem and the self it represents
and/or articulates are intended to be properly comprehended by another person, this thesis will
explore the ethical encounter that occurs between the poet and the reader at the very limits of
the known and knowable, where “(my)Self” encounters “(an)Other” in its absolute, irreducible
alterity as the constitutive moment of ethical subjectivity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Users 7376 not found.
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2016 11:34
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2016 11:34
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/59394

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