Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher Orchard, D.Phil.

Third Advisor

Michael T. Williamson, Ph.D.


Poetry is often characterized by sensorial and descriptive density, strengths ideal for sensory analysis in literature, yet sensory analysis in poetry has been limited to ekphrasis and synaesthesia, both of which entail transfer, across art forms and across senses, respectively. Despite expanded modern definitions of sense, these approaches have been limited to addressing the traditional five "external" senses, and limited further by emphasis on the two "higher" external senses: sight and hearing. Confronting these limitations, movement toward a more inclusive multi-sensory approach requires attention to the lower external senses (smell, taste, touch) and internal senses (temperature, pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, satiety, time, and space) as represented in diction. The project offers an expanded sensory approach to poetry across four points: 1) recognition of sensory diction not limited to qualities of metaphorical transfer, 2) incorporation of literary-based conceptions of sense beyond the external, traditional five senses, 3) increased sensitivity to the presence and significance of lower sense invocation, and 4) sensory diction as contributing to a poem itself rather than as points for isolation. Expanding both from the five traditional senses and sensory transfer approach, but based upon the organizing principles of synaesthesia research, this project applies a multi-sensory analysis to the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, whose body of work, in its precision and detail, lends itself to sensory analysis. Further, critical consensus reads Bishop as primarily a visual poet and a poet who often captures the essence of every day life, both points explored here by multi-sensory analysis. Specifically in question are the following: 1) the patterns and sensual strategies in Bishop's work within an expanded sensorium, 2) the extent to which the lower senses are represented in Bishop's work, 3) the extent to which internal senses contribute or challenge the external senses for space within a Bishop poem, and 4) whether a more heterarchical, multi-sensory interrogation opens the poet's work to fuller sensory criticism and appreciation. The project is situated within the current historical and cultural reclamation of lower sensory detail and offers an inclusive, literary-based sensorium grounded in language.