Title

Irredenta

Award Date

May 2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Donald Revell

Second Committee Member

Claudia Keelan

Third Committee Member

Emily Setina

Fourth Committee Member

Guiseppe Natale

Number of Pages

63

Abstract

For my dissertation I am writing a book, IRREDENTA, which is a collection of three sequences engaging the pastoral legacy of American transcendentalism and the questions of the lyric “I” left open at the ends of modernity and postmodernity. The book is experimental in the vein of Language poetry and its precursors Gertrude Stein and Jack Spicer, while it also draws from the abstract expressionism of John Ashbery and Barbara Guest.

During my comprehensive exams, I surveyed the canon of pastoral poetry and the works of Henry David Thoreau, and in my creative dissertation I write within the visionary landscape of American poetics as it was manifested in the Transcendentalists and their successors throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. I believe this strain of visionary writing is political in practice and experimental by nature. The poems of IRREDENTA examine the underlying pastoralism and provincialism of the American literary imagination.

As a genre that assumes and questions its own conventions, and as one that also links the urban with the rural, the center with the sprawl, the pastoral is a useful model for exploring what falls under the category “American” and whether this is acceptable. Though pastoralism is a byword for an illusory Arcadia, a bucolic world of hierarchical stability, paternalistic power, and romanticized poverty, better pastoral poets invent new methods from the old to expose the hubris of their time. For instance, in Virgil’s pastoral work Eclogues, the poet uses pastoral figures and conventions to implicate the Roman elite in disenfranchising the rural poor. Likewise, Thoreau and other pastoral voices from American poetry like Lorine Niedecker and Ronald Johnson document America’s hypocrisy, humanity, and vision under the aegis of pastoral license.

With an attention to the materials of the urban landscape and to the supposedly unmediated objects of the natural world, I am trying to write with and against the conventions of pastoral in order to question American naturalism. In my dissertation project IRREDENTA, the self is open and available to the given world, and part of my poetics is thus a navigation between the world ‘as is’ and the world ‘as territory.’ Ultimately these perspectives overlap. This ambivalence is echoed in the dissonance of the poetry and the instability of the speaking “I.” In essence, I wanted to write a poem to correct the notion of untouched and untameable frontiers within our borders, yet acknowledge that the given world remains a site of radical political and spiritual potential.

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | Creative Writing

Language

English

Available for download on Friday, May 15, 2026


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