Matins, vespers, and the end of suffering

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Description: Little critical attention has been granted to the conspicuously theological structure and theme of Louise Glück's The Wild Iris. But the collection marks an unexpected digression for Glück, whose earlier work reiterates a decisive agnosticism. "Matins, Vespers, and the End of Suffering" argues that the explicitly religious theme of The Wild Iris enacts a mode of testing the possibility for spiritual belief, but that ultimately, the fundamentally "religious" ends sought by the poet-protagonist (i.e., heaven, redemption, parousia) are found by the speaker to be most readily accessible through the act of writing, rather than through formal monastic ritual. Chapter I analyzes the theological theme of The Wild Iris particularly in terms of the "Matins" and "Vespers" poems and argues that the poet-protagonist discerns the spiritual ends she seeks through the cyclical lives of the plants in her garden. But the poet has also written into being each of these ecocentric voices, and Chapter II discusses the act of writing, and particularly the writing of poetry, as a spiritual practice that displaces liturgy and monasticism as a means of achieving transcendence. This rescripting of spirituality resembles Keats' theory of soul-making, in which the soul is self-actualized by identity, which is wrought by the inherently individuating experience of suffering. Through Keatsian "soul-making," both Keats and Glück give voice to the individuality of suffering, positioning the act of writing as a spiritual practice that aims to redeem the inevitability of both suffering and death.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work