Lyrical Strains: 1820-1920 Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Zellinger, Elissa
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Following John Stuart Mill, one important strain of contemporary scholarship has understood lyric poetry to convey the voice of an "overheard" subject who expresses private thoughts and emotions, either to herself or to an unavailable other. This work thus assumes, with Mill, that the lyric speaker is a model liberal subject (self-enclosed, self-reliant, self-possessed) and that lyric poetry merely communicates this subject's natural, preexisting interiority. "Lyrical Strains: 1820-1920," however, argues that lyric poetry does not merely reflect liberal subjectivity but also helps to construct it, fashioning what it means to be a self in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, because this was a dynamic, historically contingent process rather than a static given, lyric was constantly in crisis, bearing the strains of trying to create an unchanging, universal ideal of selfhood. By examining poetic efforts to fashion the self while assuming its stable existence, I demonstrate that lyric engenders its own impossibility. In chapters pairing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Stephen Crane, Walt Whitman and Edwin Arlington Robinson, Frances Sargent Osgood and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and George Moses Horton and Paul Laurence Dunbar, this project offers an insight into both genealogies of the modern self and an anticipation of its deconstruction.
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  • In Copyright
  • Richards, Eliza
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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