Dramatic Strategies in the Poetry of Robert Lowell, ...

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Title Dramatic Strategies in the Poetry of Robert Lowell, Richard Howard, and Anthony Hecht [microform]
Author(s) Geoffrey Lindsay
Date 1992
Publisher University of Toronto, 1990.
Place published Ottawa : National Library of Canada = Biblioth?que nationale du Canada
Abstract This dissertation investigates how the strategies of drama inform the poetry of Robert Lowell, Richard Howard, and Anthony Hecht. In Lowell's Notebook 1967-68 the dramatic means a bodying forth of his internal contradictions, the externalizing, through other voices, of a moral and political debate that can have no resolution as long as he is alive because it is a sine qua non of his existence: 'I too,/because I waver, am counted with the living.' In The Dolphin, Lowell distills this conflict to its essence, creating in the central protagonist a dramatic alter ego who, while resembling the author, is endowed with incomplete self-knowledge. Lowell's characteristic dramatic device is the brief quotation, usually juxtaposed against other quotations, creating a friction of perspectives that dramatizes what in earlier books had been meditative. In Richard Howard's poetry the dramatic is rendered by his dramatic monologues and dialogues. His deft impersonations of nineteenth-century characters blend imaginative re-creation with personal obsessions, thereby redeeming time even as he portrays a fall into time. The ineluctable fact of time renders precarious any commerce with the past, yet unless acknowledged (in so far as we can--Howard's past is 'performance' not events), the present is deprived of significance. Anthony Hecht's sense of tragic drama is so much a part of the fiber of his work that its terms become the governing devices of his poetry. Two key elements of the drama are particularly important to Hecht's art and his evolving relationship with his world: katharsis and peripeteia. Through the effect or process of katharsis, Hecht discovers a means by which he can explore painful and difficult subjects; in peripeteia, Hecht recognizes an artistic correlative for what he apprehends in the wider context of his life and history.

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