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Title:Modern Poetry of Work, the Work of Modern Poetry
Author(s):Marsh, John Edmond
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nelson, Cary
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:"Modern Poetry of Work, the Work of Modern Poetry" seeks to make one of the essential categories of modernity---labor---equally essential to our history of modern American poetry. The study starts by uncovering how work, workers, and working-class political movements of the first half of the twentieth century forged the literary and political sensibilities of two of modernism's most influential poets, T. S. Eliot and Carl Sandburg. For Eliot, the study argues that his encounter with the working class shapes each of his major artistic phases, from his early poetry, when he uses imagined working-class sexual "appetites" to satirize his own class's sexual propriety, to the period of The Waste Land, when working-class sexuality functions as the origin and symbol of discontented modernity itself, as well as the inspiration for his later reactionary politics and aesthetics. For Sandburg, the study argues that his early enthusiasm for John Ruskin, William Morris, and the American arts and crafts movement offers a clue to the reading of his first and most important work, Chicago Poems. In many of those poems, Sandburg shares with the arts and craft movement a commitment to transforming work from an alienating and oppressive activity to one that can express workers' artistry and souls, while in other poems---particularly the long-poem "Skyscraper"---Sandburg attempts to reconcile such an ideal with the seeming permanence of industrial capitalism. This study also examines how some of modernism's least known poets---that is, workers themselves---nevertheless used poetry in the 1930s and early 1940s to shape working-class political movements and construct their own tradition of poetic modernism. To that end, it recovers poems published in the United Auto Worker between 1936 and 1939, as well as the poems published between 1939 and 1943 in Justice, the newspaper of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, by seamstress, organizer, and poet Miriam Tane. The study recovers these worker-poems both for what they can tell us about working and living conditions in Depression-era auto and garment factories, but also for a model of how poetry has and can function rhetorically.
Issue Date:2004
Description:299 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3153375
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2004

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