Alumni

"The long trip home" Privileging Elsewhere to Rewrite 'Us' in the Poetry of Ginsberg, Lowell, Jones, and Bishop

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Description: Critics have explored the proliferation of tourist-poets in post-World War II America, acknowledging the Cold War's fear of everything Other and its effect on American writing. An assortment of American poets wrote against the marginalizing discourse of Cold War-era American culture by privileging the racial and/or geographical Other in their own writing. I am interested in problematizing this flip, showing that while these poets privilege the Other, they still participate in colonialist discourse. My project will be indebted to postcolonial theorists such as Homi Bhabha and Edward Said, as my reading will show the inherently Orientalizing nature of these poets' characterizations of the Other, and their troublesome attempts at hybridity. Specifically, I will perform close readings of four books of poetry: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and other poems (1956), Robert Lowell's Life Studies (1959), Amiri Baraka's, or as he was known at the time, LeRoi Jones's The Dead Lecturer (1964), and Elizabeth Bishop's Questions of Travel (1965). Each of these books explores a different locale: Ginsberg looks to a non-specific and at times undifferentiated East, Lowell to China, Jones to Africa, and Bishop to Brazil. Each poet shows his or her preference for Otherness over American-ness. I will show that these writers' characterizations of the Other emerge directly from a world that attempted to protect the American citizen from the perceived perversity of the Eastern Other. Ultimately, this project will argue that while these writers have been celebrated for stepping outside of the discourse surrounding America as an emerging imperial power, their work actually participates in America's colonizing project. And that, finally, their "liberal" writing of the Other functions only as a way to talk about themselves as Americans in the post-war era.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work