Degree Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

DeSales Harrison

Keywords

Modern, Contemporary, Poetry, Metaphor, Philosophy of language, Fly bottle, Vessel, Stevens, Merrill, Larkin, Keats, Space, Poetics, Bachelard

Abstract

This project follows the strangely consistent fascination in modern and contemporary poetry with vessel objects. From Wallace Stevens' "jar [placed] in Tennessee," to "That vase" of Philip Larkin or James Merrill's "clear vase of dry leaves vibrating on and on," even so far back in literary history as the shapely "Grecian Urn" of John Keats' famous ode among numerous others, the genre is teeming with vessels. I argue that these kinds of objects open up distinctive possibilities for poetic exploration because of the unique way that they engage with space. Consequently, by using these objects as metaphors, poets are able to reflect upon the nuanced relationship between poetry and a non-poetic reality on the one hand, and between an interior subjective life and an external objective world on the other. My analysis reflects the spatial trajectory of this 'object-metaphor' itself, examining the three main topographical components that constitute all vessels: 1) the vessel's contained interior space, 2) the realm surrounding or exterior to the object, and 3) its creatively constructed surface which functions as the physical boundary between the other two spaces.

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