This dissertation is a critical study of how representations of space in selected post-war North American avant-garde poetry produce a poetics of disorientation. Reading space as a characteristic of postmodern experience and a medium of subjectivity in the globalizing stage of late capitalism, this study analyzes spatial poetry and the theory of the spatial turn as forms of knowledge that disclose the changing perceived spatiality of the globe and of the subject. The spatial turn to the postmodern supplies an analytic frame through which to trace a reemphasis of space in particular avant-garde poetics, including the work of Charles Olson, Susan Howe and Steve McCaffery. Engaging with the socio-cultural, geographic, political and psychological effects of spatial poetics as interventions in social space, this study investigates an aesthetic that alternates dialectically between a sense of spatial disorientation and a process of cognitive mapping. These representations track the development of a doubly decentered spatial subject, displaced in Marxist-geographical terms with respect to the space of the planet, and displaced in psychoanalytic terms with respect to the subject’s own intention, meaning, and self-coherence.
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Thesis advisor: Derksen, Jeff
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