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Limits of Lyric Poetry in the Twentieth Century: From James Joyce to Sarah Kane

Blomvall, Laura-Maria (2018) Limits of Lyric Poetry in the Twentieth Century: From James Joyce to Sarah Kane. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Examining the limits of lyric poetry in the twentieth century opens up questions central to the form of the lyric poem and at the heart of contemporary lyric theory. Drawing on some aspects central to the debate about lyric poetry’s expansiveness today, including Jahan Ramazani’s argument that ‘poetry makes visible the structuring presuppositions behind the genres it assimilates’, I will argue through three case studies that far from dissolving lyric, experiments with its formal limits depend on a prior idea about lyric poetry and its implications. In the first chapter, I argue that James Joyce’s epiphanies build on a late nineteenth-century tradition of the prose poem to test the dependence of lyric on moments of heightened feeling and insight. Rather than simply acting as an incipient form to examine narrative and its limits, by testing the limits between prose and poetry the epiphanies have equally significant implications for articulating and interrogating prior assumptions about the limits of lyric poetry. In the second chapter, I investigate the dependence of definitions of lyric poetry on notions of brevity by analysing H.D.’s long wartime poem Trilogy. I read Trilogy in relation to the Second World War and H.D.’s psychoanalysis to analyse the complex reasons behind her movement from the brief, Imagist poem to the poetic sequence, and how this move is symptomatic of a wider problem with the dependence of definitions of lyric poetry on brevity. Finally, I argue that Sarah Kane’s posthumously published work 4.48 Psychosis tests the limits between poetry and theatre through a reliance on and a problematisation of the lyric voice. Reading the text within established traditions of lyric poetry, like aubade and nocturne poems, and in a wider context of fin-de-siècle writing, I show Kane’s text negotiates the limits between dramatic dialogue and an isolated lyric voice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Ms Laura-Maria Blomvall
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2019 11:22
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2019 11:22
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23152

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