Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Committee Member

Brian McGrath, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Jillian Weise

Committee Member

Cameron Bushnell

Abstract

Criticism of Rosmarie Waldrop’s Driven to Abstraction has centered around her fascination with the notion of zero as both a negation and the locus of infinity, but has so far neglected to discuss the implications that this lacuna has on the role of the subject. True to its title, Driven takes the reader on a journey toward nothingness where desubjectification is made into the subject of the work. Through the use of the prose poem which eschews traditional poetic form and conventional syntax, Waldrop employs a collage that not only provides material representation of abstract concepts, but also demonstrates the tenuous relationship between language, the self, and reality. As a forerunner of contemporary women’s experimental poetry as well as a German-born immigrant with extensive experience in translation, Waldrop’s ability to manipulate language and acknowledgement of the contingent relationship between the sign and referent proves her to be an authority on subjective loss and displacement. Her poem “Time Ravel” from Driven is a meditation on the reflexive nature of subjectivity which illustrates the poststructuralist idea of a decentered subject that is comprised of cultural and linguistic relationships. Waldrop’s poetics reflect this disjunction between the self and the notion of an objective reality, while also suggesting that through the medium of poetry can one regain the agency that philosophy has long since disavowed. Through a close reading of Waldrop’s poem in conjunction with theoretical readings on the postmodern idea of a subject, I will explore how one’s identity and location in the political spectrum is formed through the tenuous relationship between language, history, memory, and time.

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