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Fit to cope with our occasions: John Ashbery's place in postwar American poetry

Herd, Gavin David; (1996) Fit to cope with our occasions: John Ashbery's place in postwar American poetry. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The object of this thesis is to develop terms by which Ashbery's contribution to postwar poetry can properly be evaluated. I argue that the key term to such an evaluation is 'occasion'. This term has three distinct critical functions. First, following the poet, I suggest that an Ashbery poem is occasioned by its circumstances (which is to say that events give rise to the poem, but do not determine its shape). Second, I show that Ashbery's development can be charted in terms of his widening sense of what constitutes the occasion of the poem. Third, I compare Ashbery's responses to occasions which have shaped postwar American poetry with the responses of important contemporaries. In the introduction I describe how I arrived at the term 'occasion', and indicate its value to Ashbery criticism. Chapter One argues that Ashbery's occasional aesthetic is rooted in the collaborative milieu of the New York School. Chapter Two shows why the idea of an occasional poetry might have seemed attractive to Ashbery by setting his early writing against the work of the middle generation. In the third chapter I consider Ashbery's second volume. The Tennis Court Oath, and show how, exceptionally, it embodies a monumental notion of the occasion. Chapter four compares how Ashbery and George Oppen responded to the pressure on sixties American poets to make political pronouncements. Chapter five considers how Ashbery, Ed Dorn and Adrienne Rich responded to the increasing use of literary interviews to explain contemporary poetry to a baffled reading public. The final chapter shows how Ashbery's recent poetry strives to square his desire to write for the occasion, with the late impulse to ensure his poetic survival through influence, and considers his importance to British poets John Ash, Peter Didsbury and Denise Riley.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Fit to cope with our occasions: John Ashbery's place in postwar American poetry
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097427
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