Award Date

2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

Advisor 1

V. Nicholas LoLordo, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Megan Becker-Leckrone

Second Committee Member

Denise Tillery

Graduate Faculty Representative

Vernon Hodge

Number of Pages

293

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on applying a new method of analysis to selected works by three major poets, John Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and T. S. Eliot. The project considers their work in light of recent scholarship by Charles Altieri on the affects, such as emotion, feelings, passion, and mood; how these affects operate in artistic works; and, specifically, examines how these authors employ the affects in their poetry to express their own emotions and, in the creation of lyric poems, turn these emotions into works of art. In addition, the project strengthens the aesthetic readings with a study of the ways in which these poets employ sensory images to achieve a desired affect.

The introduction presents the concepts of the various affects, as explained by literary critic, Charles Altieri. It argues that this framework of the affects can be valuable in poetic analysis, and is expandable to include other affects, and subcategories of the affects, as close reading of the poetry identifies new emotional vistas. I begin with the poetry and critical writing (mainly letters) of John Keats, whose philosophy of poetry was a harbinger of later writers including Eliot. Like Keats, Eliot will accentuate the detachment of the poet, and the difference between feelings and emotions. Like Keats, Hopkins will express a type of detachment - his, slightly different, as it is a separation from the worldly and an escape to the supernatural. Like Hopkins, Eliot will present poetry that is deeply religious, but will add an element of political comment not present in the earlier writers.

Chapters on Gerard Manley Hopkins and T. S. Eliot follow the chapter on Keats, and in them I apply the methodology of sensory imagery and affect to poets of differing backgrounds. Each chapter will include a philosophical analysis followed by close reading of selected works. In Keats, I will locate a tension between the key concepts of fancy and imagination, remarking on Keats's separation from the wisdom of his contemporary, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, on these interpretations of the two major processes of poetic creativity. The Keats works analyzed include "Sleep and Poetry," Endymion, and "Ode to a Nightingale." In explicating the works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, I will establish how his conversion to Catholicism, and subsequent ordination as a Jesuit, affected his poetic style, in turn creating for him a new affective space, which I call religious fervor. The Hopkins poetry analyzed includes "God's Grandeur," "The Windhover," and "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves." I will argue that, even in the so-called "desolate sonnets" of 1885, Hopkins remained a poet of religious fervor, not doubt. Reference will be made to J. Hillis Miller's synoptic survey of the place of religion in nineteenth century artistic works, The Disappearance of God. The poetry of T. S. Eliot will be analyzed in an in-depth consideration of the very late poem, "Little Gidding," the final of the Four Quartets. The dominant affect of that poem, composed during the Second World War, is mood, the least subjective and the most passive of the affects, as adumbrated by Altieri. The passivity of "Little Gidding" is the key to understanding the affective plight of noncombatants in World War II; it is also the key to the poem's success.

In all of the chapters, attention will be given to the use of sensory imagery. This work began as an interest in synaesthesia, especially in the work of Keats, but has been expanded to include the perspective of recent scholarship by Susan Stewart ( Poetry and the Fate of the Senses ), and Rei Terada ( Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the "Death of the Subject" ). The interaction between the way sensory perception is presented and the affective stance of the poetry varies from poet to poet. Keats, for example, often uses a negation of the senses to establish emotional distance, yet stresses the intensity of natural and artistic feelings. Hopkins, reflecting the religious practice of the Jesuits set forth by St. Ignatius Loyola, often sacrifices the senses as worldly and seeks a loftier supernatural affective stance in "The Habit of Perfection," in which each of the senses is subjugated to only spiritual, not sensory, input. Eliot, while seemingly focused on a specific place (Little Gidding, a historical religious enclave from the seventeenth century), and time (World War II), employs vague images which give the poem a moodlike affect, one easily relevant to other places and other times. Eliot's emphasis of the helplessness of the plight of England in World War II adds a political perspective to an otherwise deeply reflective and philosophical poem. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Keywords

Aesthetics; Gerard Manley Hopkins; John Keats; Literary criticism; Poetics; Poetry; T.S. Eliot

Disciplines

Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature

Language

English


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