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Muriel Rukeyser: poetry and the body

Nasaif, F. K. I. (2015) Muriel Rukeyser: poetry and the body. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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The human body occupies a central place in Rukeyser’s poetry. Her characters’ physical experiences inspire their search for an artistic form and a holistic vision that reconciles the corporeal and conceptual aspects of their life. My thesis deals with Rukeyser’s reconciliation of disparate aspects of existence through the image of the human body and the practical experiences she underwent in her personal life and incorporated in her poetry. I discuss her poetry of the 1940s, where a tension is observed between the artist’s personal life and her art, which she attempts to resolve by adopting an artistic form that accommodates her quotidian experiences. I study, mainly through her poetry of the 1950s, Rukeyser’s poetic technique in the light of her organicist poetics and the combination of tendencies to coercion and suggestiveness distinguishing her style. I examine her portrayal of the suffering body in her poetry of the 1960s and 1970s. By means of their physical experiences, the ill, her despised and the imprisoned protagonists undergo a process of development whereby they perceive the different aspects of their identity and attempt to broaden perspectives on their situation by reconciling them. I argue that Rukeyser’s engagement with physical encounters and with the poem as an inclusive, organic body enables her to reconcile disparate elements in her poetry, such as her personal life and her art, her individual existence and the public world, as well as the distinct aspects of her characters’ identity. Her vatic outlook, which integrates distinct aspects of experience, is consistent with Merleau-Ponty’s idea of human perception as characterised by the two interdependent positions of immanence and transcendence. Rukeyser’s poetry depicts her physical engagement with quotidian events of her life as a factor of artistic inspiration. These situations constitute shared human experiences that enable her to imagine the links binding her to other people and the world at large. The poet’s personal experiences inspire her search for an artistic form that accommodates them. Her perception of the concrete aspect of her individual existence gains significance when it is linked to social and political issues. Both the private and public are thus seen as interconnected, and they affect the existence of each other while retaining their distinctness.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Robinson, P.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages
ID Code:55811


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