Contemporary British Poetry and The Objectivists
Stone, Alison Jane
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
An extended 5 year embargo exists on this thesis, supported by my supervisor Prof. Andy Brown (embargo request accompanied submission form).
Reason for embargo
I will be seeking publication for her thesis imminently. There are also a number of unpublished archival materials in the thesis, which will need permissions from the authors’ estates before the thesis is made Open Access.
This thesis examines a neglected transatlantic link between three post-war British poets – Charles Tomlinson, Gael Turnbull and Andrew Crozier – and a group of Depression-era modernists: the Objectivists. This study seeks to answer why it was the Objectivists specifically, rather than other modernists, that were selected by these three British poets as important exemplars. This is achieved through a combination of close readings – both of the Americans’ and Britons’ poetry and prose – and references to previously unpublished correspondence and manuscripts. The analysis proceeds via a consideration of how the Objectivists’ principles presented a challenge to dominant constructs of ‘authority’ and ‘value’ in post-war Britain, and the poetic is figured in this sense as a way-of-being as much as a discernible formal mode. The research concentrates on key Objectivist ideas (“Perception,” “Conviction,” “Objectification”), revealing the deep ethical concerns underpinning this collaboration, as well as hitherto unacknowledged political resonances in the context of its application to British poetries. Discussions of language-use build on recent critical perspectives that have made a case for the ‘re-forming’ potential of certain modernist poetries, particularly arguments about ‘paratactic’ versus ‘fragmentary’ modernisms, and as such the three British poets’ interest in the Objectivists is interpreted as a response to a need for restitution following the trauma of World War II. Ultimately, it is argued that this interaction (which this thesis figures in explicitly transatlantic terms) was a challenge to the emphasis placed on collective and normative viewpoints in much post-war British poetry, many of which were located in an organic conception of ‘nation.’ This study claims that the Objectivists’ example posited a contrasting poetic, foregrounding individual agency and capacity for thought as the only viable means for the poet to re-connect with and make meaningful statements about society and the world.
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
PhD in English