Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Todd N. Thompson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Patrick Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Abstract

The poetry of Robert Morgan, Kay Stripling Byer, and Ron Rash unites the places along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the southern Appalachian mountains. Their voices, which grow from the hollers of this unique bioregion, sustain the people, culture, history, and values of a time and place that are changing beneath their feet. Beginning with the literary legacy of Thomas Wolfe and continuing on to explore the ideas of solastalgia and topophilia as motives to write poetry, and poesis as a means to preserve poetry and place, I show how these three writers sustain the mountains through their poetry.

Through the investigation of poetry in small exterior places in Robert Morgan’s poetry to the poetry of artifact, singing, and home in Kay Byer, and finally the influence of voice, character, and landscape in the poetry of Ron Rash, I demonstrate how the writing of these poems is an act of preservation that marks the places of the authors with a lasting memorial for future generations. Exploring concepts of home, place, memory, time, and ecology, one can see how the poems function to sustain, but also to heal the scars of devastation caused by a rapidly changing environment, which is being transformed by outside forces in undesirable ways.

Linked by a bioregion of old mountains, a unique collection of flora and fauna, and a human history of Native Americans dating back thousands of years, the southern Appalachian region is the perfect site to examine the influence of landscape and place on the making of poetry. The place, its people, and its poetry help to preserve this place very memorably and meaningfully.

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