Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Louise Economides

Commitee Members

Deborah Slicer, John Hunt


Ovid, Robert Duncan, ecocriticism, queer theory, anarchism


University of Montana


This paper explores the poetry of Robert Duncan and the political potential of melancholy. Relying on Judith Butler’s examination of the difference between “mourning” and “melancholy” in Precarious Lives, I argue that Robert Duncan enacts a condition of melancholia that he might respond to what Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands identifies in Queer Ecologies as “the psychically ungrievable”: homosexual desire and the environment. I contend in this thesis that one might enact an active experience of melancholy as both a preservative and rejuvenative force. In the first chapter of the thesis I explore Robert Duncan’s revisitation of a passage from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in his 1964 poem “Cyparissus,” arguing that Duncan recovers the myth from Ovid’s implicitly homophobic subtext. In the second chapter of the thesis I examine Duncan’s use of what Timothy Morton terms “ambient poetics,” arguing that in his 1968 poem “The Fire, Passages 13,” Duncan enacts an intertextual and melancholic ambience as a means to critique the environmental violence and trauma experienced as a cultural byproduct of the Vietnam War.



© Copyright 2014 Robert Nolan Knapp