"An imagist turned philosopher": Formal innovation, conscious experience, and the self in modernist women's poetry
Darling, Kristina Marie
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My dissertation focuses on representations of philosophical discourses in Modernist women's writing. Philosophers (including Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and Henri Bergson) had argued in the early twentieth century, and even in the late nineteenth century, for an understanding of the self as at once corporeal and relational, shaped and reshaped by interactions within a community. The once clear distinction between self and other was increasingly called into question. This breakdown of boundaries between self and world often manifested in the style of contemporary literary works. Modernist poetry, like the stream of consciousness fiction that was being written at the time, used metaphor, sound, and a revision of received grammatical structures to blur the boundaries between self and other, individual and collective. My dissertation explores the ways that female writers like Mina Loy, H.D., Gertrude Stein, and Marianne Moore used form and technique to respond to these philosophical debates, reclaiming agency over a predominantly male philosophical discourse. While many critics have addressed the thematic content of these writers' work, and the ways in which it intersects with philosophical discourses, few scholars have taken up this question while focusing on the style of the writing. I hope to show that these female poets used seemingly small stylistic choices to in poetry to make necessary contributions to contemporary philosophical discourses, ultimately rendering these philosophical conversations more inclusive.