Date of Award

6-8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Chauna Craig, Ph.D.

Abstract

There is inherent cultural value in the poetry of place. Following current trends in ecocriticism and cultural geography, this dissertation constructs a framework through which to investigate various ways that post-WWII American poetry represents and re-imagines places. Seeking to expand current definitions of "ecopoetry," I propose three modes of place poetics--landscape, contemporary pastoral, and ecohistorical--all three of which examine differing orientations toward place and a range of anthropocentric and ecocentric worldviews. As an introduction, the first chapter constructs this tripartite framework and suggests that such a place-based approach can aid in expanding our current understanding of ecopoetry as a poetry that contemplates not simply nature, but also the complex relationship among culture, self, and nature, and, as such, participates in the ongoing composition of place. Chapter two discusses the landscape mode through an analysis James Wright's and Richard Hugo's work that is firmly grounded in the experience of their hometown regions. Chapter three considers Gary Snyder and John Haines as poets of the contemporary pastoral who exemplify the mode's power to critique contemporary life ways in favor of more traditional ones. Chapter four defines an ecohistorical place poetics through examining the work of Leslie Marmon Silko and Ray Young Bear as poets whose work speaks from a rooted, transcultural perspective. The concluding chapter provides a synthesis toward my place-based analysis of contemporary ecopoetry, attempting to validate the place-mode framework as a valid approach to contemporary place poetics. Ultimately, the broad vision of this dissertation is guided by examining the following: poetry's contribution to the ongoing process of place, its participation in the social construction of concepts such as landscape, nature, culture, and wilderness, its capacity for providing a voice for nature as well as raising the reader's consciousness toward the divisions between human and nature, and the effectiveness of poetry as a genre to express various orientations toward place. Ultimately, I argue that the three modes of place poetics proposed by this dissertation allow us to examine more fully the poetry of place as a valuable linguistic, artistic, and imaginative expression of one's "sense of place."

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