The image complex : challenges to the Imagist hegemony in contemporary American poetry
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Reviewing the second instalment of Amy Lowell’s anthology series Some Imagist Poets in 1916, the Times Literary Supplement declared that ‘Imagist poetry fills us with hope; even if it is not very good in itself, it seems to promise a form in which very good poetry could be written.’ This study aims to dismantle this common assumption about Imagist verse. Although many commentaries have acknowledged Imagism’s far-reaching impact upon American poetry, few have treated its theoretical premises with the scepticism it deserves, traced the movement’s pedagogical legacy, or acknowledged the importance of contemporary poets who have challenged the pervasive influence of Pound’s Imagist tenets. In Chapter One, I discuss the privileging of the image in modern poetry and criticism from the original Imagistes to Robert Bly’s mid-century ‘Deep Imagism’. Chapter Two explores the critical tendency to misread William Carlos Williams as a poet of the concrete image, before exposing the tangible effects of this skewed reading in the verse of his disciple Denise Levertov. Chapters Three to Six are made up of author studies, analysing the poetry of Charles Simic, C.K. Williams, Louise Glück, and Robert Hass, to illuminate the various aesthetic strategies by which they challenged Imagism’s authoritarian precepts. In Chapter Seven, I discuss Rae Armantrout’s Money Shot (2010) and Timothy Donnelly’s The Cloud Corporation (2010) as critiques of the Imagist emphasis on ‘the part rather than the whole,’ while in the final chapter, I analyse Ocean Vuong’s debut Night Sky With Exit Wounds (2016) as evidence of the survival of the Imagist hegemony into contemporary practice.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Embargo Date: 2024-04-26
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 26th April 2024
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