Poetry of the American suburbs
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This dissertation argues that twentieth-century poetry about suburbia, and especially such poetry written by poets who have lived in the suburbs, seeks to expose the practical and historical failures of suburbia's pastoral promise. In poems about suburban environments, poets create ironic pastorals that, rather than reconciling nature with progress, criticize suburbia's dystopian atmosphere. Poets who moved into suburbia have been eager to import the literary structures that Walt Whitman so confidently deployed, for example the rhapsodic celebration of natural landscapes and the rhetorical movement between cities and agrarian spaces. If the myth of suburban pastoralism is true, then suburbs should furnish liberation and simplicity; they should seem to accommodate the conventions of pastoral poetry. Suburbia disappoints twentieth-century poets, who show us that this idealized residential environment comprises specious pastoral spaces that seem incessantly manufactured for middle-class consumption. Repeatedly, suburban speakers feel that their lives have run amiss, and this intimation points to a larger reality that the settings in which they reside cannot avail them of the repose and authenticity they desire. Poets discussed in this dissertation include William Carlos Williams, Richard Wilbur, Karl Shapiro, Louis Simpson, Howard Nemerov, James Dickey, John Ashbery, Charles Bernstein, and Charles Wright.
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