Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James Olney


Hayden Carruth (b. 1921) has reached an advanced stage in his distinguished career as a poet, critic, and editor without having received the critical attention which he deserves and which has been accorded many of his less able contemporaries. He is a thorough-going existentialist, a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee, and an anarchist. The study uses these characteristics to explore the importance of his poetry and the nature of his complex relations with his chosen traditions. The first three chapters describe and analyze Carruth's development book by book from 1959 to 1983. The fourth chapter, "Carruth's Existential Revisions of Walden," considers Carruth's response to the New England literary tradition by elaborating his negative response to Thoreau in particular, with asides into Emerson, Paul Goodman, Robert Lowell, and other regional poets. The fifth chapter, "Erotic Conventions," uses a theoretical framework derived from Kierkegaard's Either/Or to explore the nature of the narrative voice in Carruth's long poem The Sleeping Beauty. The final chapter is an analysis of recent developments in Carruth's work since 1984, especially his on-going critique of cultural optimism. What emerges is that Carruth's work is both an accomplished extension of the central line of lyric poetry written in English and a substantial essentially American contribution to the current of existential thought.