Constraint in contemporary poetry.

Bell, Alexander (2020) Constraint in contemporary poetry. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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What is the relationship between formal constraint and the pressures of the social world which poetry interprets, resists and is shaped by? This thesis argues that constraint is a fundamental category in the criticism and practice of contemporary poetry. When poets think about the constraints of writing, they attend to both formal and social determinations. Although this analogy has a long history in poetry, the poets with whom I am concerned are working in the legacy of modernism and Romanticism, where formal innovation began to take on an explicitly political valence. Re-working poetic constraints and conventions was a means for the transformation of life—or else for preserving poetry’s distinction from a degraded world. In the twentieth-century, developments in structuralism, post-structuralism, Marxism and psychoanalysis altered and deepened how literary critics and poets saw the relationship between literature (or art more broadly) and society, and between individuals and the forces and discourses which shaped, interpellated, or controlled them. It is my contention that we can see the influence of these developments in the poetics of contemporary writers, whose work engages with the premise of being fundamentally constrained: by language, by racial discourses, by gender, by capitalism, or by generic conventions—and the combination and interaction of all of these. With a variety of tactics and styles, the poets in the study—Lyn Hejinian, Denise Riley, M. NourbeSe Philip, Anne Carson and Lisa Robertson—investigate how poetic constraints might mitigate, replicate or even transform the social constraints which they take as their objects.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2021 14:58
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2021 14:58


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