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Title: Kinds of Wrong: The Liberalization of Modern Poetry 1910-1960
Authors: Braun, Daniel Rafael
Advisors: Kotin, Joshua
Dolven, Jeff
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Criticism
Subjects: American literature
English literature
Modern literature
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: What does it mean for a poet go wrong? What does it mean that criticism is no longer able to pose, let alone take an interest, in the formulation of this question? My dissertation offers a history of modern poetry and its criticism, taken as a single institution, by tracing a shift in our senses of wrong, from something unequivocal, to something supple and complex, requiring elaboration, explanation, compromise, further discussion, and the agreement to disagree. I call this transformation a process of liberalization, by which I mean a set of changes at once epistemological, moral, and political, and of which the domains of poetry and criticism form an advance guard. Across the work of Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, and Frank O’Hara, and in the criticism of I.A. Richards, and T.S. Eliot, I show how it was modernism that first taught us to subtilize our senses of wrong, to approach questions of evaluation as matters of interpretation, and to think of understanding as a form of forgiveness. Poets were once freely criticized for grammatical, factual, stylistic, moral, theological, and political mistakes. I show how such criticisms are, over the course of the 20th century, displaced by questions as to what might count, in the first place, as a poet’s mistake per se. Individual chapters examine a variety of conflicts, external and internal, from Ezra Pound’s early blunders of translation and the limits of scholarly responsibility and poetic license, to the political incorrectness of Wallace Stevens’ poetry of the 1930s, and his entanglement with the literary Left, and W.H. Auden’s guilty conscience about the freedoms he demanded a postwar democratic society extend to its poets. The dissertation culminates in a novel account of the Bollingen controversy, in which I argue that partisans and critics of Liberal democracy alike came to stake the very survival of its institutions on an appreciation of Pound’s incorrigibility, and the incorrigibility of the figure of the poet in general. It is in the wake of this controversy that the questions of aesthetic wrong and fault give way to an ethos of toleration, and give shape to a concept of poetry as a form of expressive freedom.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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