Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)
"The Poetry In-Between: Presence and Absence in Whitman, Rimbaud, and Hopkins" analyzes three major nineteenth-century poets and their development of a poetics which has as its chief focus of concern the issue of presencing an eternal and universal "Other" by which to assess self identity. After the Kantian critique and the seeming reduction of human knowledge to phenomenal perceptions, early nineteenth-century poets and theorists feared the entrapment and isolation of the self in subjective awareness. The romantics, such as Friedrich Schlegel, sought ways to overcome such alienating subjectivity and ultimately conceived of the poet as a privileged spokesman and arbiter for a harmonious and "divine" origin of life; it is through the poet's imagination, argue Schlegel and his followers, that the noumenal or total, eternal "Other" is presenced. Through such presencing, which essentially involves the collapsing of boundaries between the phenomenal body and the transcendent soul, the individual self gains identity as part of an integrated, universal, and eternal cosmos. However, each poet faced crises of separation which challenged their presencing of this "Other"; in general, the death of the body in war or sickness threatened to cut the poet off from his vision and participation in an eternal, harmonious "Other." Ultimately, towards the end of their poetic careers, Whitman, Rimbaud, and Hopkins negotiated a poetic stance which views the self as in-between a full presence and a complete absence of cosmic totality; the desire of the self for the "Other" banishes its complete absence, but the self must also recognize the transiency of humanity and our inability to grasp individually the complete presence of an eternity.
Alexander, Jonathan Flint, "The Poetry In-Between: Presence and Absence in Whitman, Rimbaud, and Hopkins." (1993). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 5479.