Unsociable Poetry: Antagonism and Abstraction in Contemporary Feminized Poetics

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-03-28
Identifier: 
etd10106
Keywords: 
Feminized poetry
Racialization
Abstraction
Antagonism
Value
Systematic dialectics
Abstract: 

Unsociable Poetry: Antagonism and Abstraction in Contemporary Feminized Poetics argues that feminized poetry aesthetically theorizes non-conceptual and otherwise hidden dimensions of gendered and racialized experience, in order to show how such experience is form-determined by late capitalist modes of value production and the socially-binding forces of real abstractions. This “unsociable poetry” mobilizes two key dynamics—abstraction and antagonism—both of which can be thought of as concepts, categories, and processes, sometimes all at once. Theorizing the relation between aesthetic abstractions and capitalist abstractions, I demonstrate how feminized poets articulate and critique the effects of deindustrialization, and the forms of positive representation advanced by the liberal politics of recognition that serve to reproduce colonial structures of domination. I document a variety of antagonisms in their work, showing how these arise from the contradictions of social life as it is dominated—that is, form-determined—by value. To this end, I read Bernadette Mayer’s and Catherine Wagner’s work as antagonistic poetics of social reproduction, tracking forms of recalcitrance in their poetry through systematic dialectics; Marie Annharte Baker’s and Dawn Lundy Martin’s poems as modes of transformative antagonism which refuse the very ground upon which racial representation is staged; Claudia Rankine’s use of tone as an aesthetic mode uniquely suited to critique the systematic reinscription of blackness as a real abstraction; Bhanu Kapil’s mobilization of a counter-(re)productive negativity that is able to aesthetically trace the negative dialectics of the value-form itself; and Alli Warren’s poetry as an attempt to collapse the distance between essence and appearance, to abolish capitalist mediation, even if it knows the inadequacy of poetry to this task. Throughout this dissertation, I argue that dialectical reading—and specifically, systematic dialectics—is key to understanding the apparently isolated moments of an integrated totality, one in which gendered and racialized states of precarity often appear formally disconnected from the economic relations out of which they emerge. In this way, reading feminized poetry dialectically leads us to a meaningful understanding of value as the ultimate abstraction, the one that propels capital in its moving contradiction, and consequently as the real abstraction that shapes all others.

Document type: 
Thesis
Rights: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
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Senior supervisor: 
Stephen Collis
Jeff Derksen
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
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