Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Robert M. Baker


Exteriority, Ashbery, Spicer, Stein, Eliot, Postmodernism, Subjectivity, Elizabeth Robinson, Hawkey


University of Montana


This investigation traces the arc of fracturing and exteriorizing subjectivities in the post-Romantic poetries of Modernism and Postmodernism, ultimately considering the state of contemporary Postmodern subjectivity after the Language Poets. Focusing primarily on T.S. Eliot, John Ashbery, and Christian Hawkey, the thesis argues that the I/Other split associated with Romantic poetry’s idealized Othering of nature performs a major shift with the interiorizing fragmentation of the speaker(s) in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” The anxiety produced by this claustrophobic, internal splitting of voices reaches critical mass in the chorus of difficult-to-trace speakers of “The Waste Land,” causing a breach of interior containment which projects the internal polyphony of voices outward. John Ashbery continues this exteriorizing polyphony, as evidenced in his ruminations on the surfaces of representation and his dispersal of subjectivity through the use of pronouns. With one foot moving forward into the post-structuralist avant-garde and another nostalgically reaching for a Romantic unity, Ashbery represents the messy progression of post-Romantic innovation. By the time of Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, the anxieties relating to the death of the contained, Romantic self have lessened with distance, but the legacy of Language poetics (which took the de-authoring, exteriorizing arc to its logical extreme) has left contemporary innovative poets with the challenge of reclaiming human subjectivity without ignoring the complications raised by generations of problematizing experimenters. By “collaborating” with dead poets and creatively “translating” foreign language texts, writers like Hawkey are seeking a “middle voice” that retrieves the human element while challenging the myth of a unified self.



© Copyright 2014 William John Soloy