Rhetoric and public action in poetry after 1960
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation considers the relation between literary documents and public identities, and how U. S. culture is reflected and transfigured by poetry in the United States after 1960. Concerned with epideictic communication in public contexts, this study looks at how private interventions in public spaces can shape attitudes toward cultural phenomena. A secondary concern elucidates the ways literary texts are valued in English departments, bearing critical reflection on rhetorical, literary, and creative pedagogy. Insofar as the epideictic mode prepares individuals for a decision-making process in current democratic situations, this dissertation considers recent examples of strategic public engagements, and provides rhetorical readings of key situations in American social and cultural life since 1960 to illustrate how such methods can bring rhetoric and literature together in contemporary public contexts. The first of these studies inspects the correspondence and poetry of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov during the Vietnam War over the uses of poetry as a public document. Public identity and U. S. social practices are explored in the following chapter with the 1970s and ’80s poetry of Lorenzo Thomas and Edward Dorn, whose poems participate in the articulation of tensions between private and public life. Chapter 4 argues that Charles Olson’s poems and letters appearing in the editorial pages of The Gloucester-Daily Times in the 1960s effectively helped bring civic attention to the transformation of public space in Gloucester, Mass. While he interpreted the changes he perceived in Gloucester through literary and historical theories, he framed them within rhetorically motivated communication strategies to deliver new perceptions of what constituted civic value. Chapter 5 concludes by examining more recent attempts by poets to influence public reflection on crucial events that led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through digital media, public performance, and civic encounters mediated by fugitive texts. The opening and final chapters introduce my methodology and present the problem of poetry in public contexts, and advocates for reflection within English departments on the rhetorical value of literary texts.