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Title:Time and timelessness in Robert Frost's lyrics
Author(s):Postema, James Allen
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Watts, Emily S.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:Sharon Cameron argues persuasively that lyrics isolate moments, freeing them from the sequential, causal flow of ordinary time. Robert Frost's lyrics, however, demonstrate that often the speakers who describe such timeless moments are themselves anchored in particular moments and cannot escape linear time; the majority of Frost's lyrics posit someone speaking in a moment temporally related to the lyric moment. In this study I trace temporal conflicts that arise between timeless, narrated moments in Frost's lyrics and the temporally anchored moments from which speakers narrate the poems. Such conflicts highlight contradictions at the heart of the lyric form--both in Frost's work and in all lyrics.
After discussing the temporal dynamics of lyric poems, in Chapter 2 I examine Frost's dramatic suspensions, poems like "The Pasture" which are caught between temporal isolation and the pull of time. Speakers in these poems describe moments occurring just before some impending event: the moment's dramatic consequences arouse narrative expectations about succeeding moments, but the speaker severs such narrative ties, isolating the moment lyrically.
In other poems speakers' connections to time limit the timelessness of lyric moments. Chapter 3 examines speakers who subordinate narrated moments to the moment of speaking, by imposing generalizations on those moments or by calling attention to them as narrated moments. Some lyrics approach timelessness despite these limitations: Chapter 4 discusses speakers whose memories or imaginations expand the temporal bounds of isolated moments. Often, however, these speakers reassert their own ties to linear time, despite escaping time temporarily.
Chapter 5 discusses poems that resist narrative hindrances and move towards timelessness. In some cases, speakers narrate epiphanically inclusive moments, as in "Iris by Night"; other speakers question such moments: "For Once, Then, Something" equivocates while describing a doubtful vision. Some speakers simply lose consciousness of their surroundings, as in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," or reproduce such a loss of consciousness in their narratives, as in "Mowing." These poems suppress the discursive nature of the lyric utterance, directing attention instead to the temporal and causal isolation of the narrated moments.
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Postema, James Allen
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9010991
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9010991

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