Simulation, mediation, and transformation: a study of Derek Walcott's poetry
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractMost critics approach Derek Walcott's poetry as the attempt of one individual to achieve a mature poetic style that is the equal of such canonized poets of the English literary tradition as Donne and T.S. Eliot. As a result, their assessment of Walcott's literary abilities often focuses exclusively on the role his particular personality plays In his work and on how that developing personality reflects his growth as an artist towards a stable subjectivity that they perceive to be characteristic of artistic mastery. This tendency to associate a stable personality with an accomplished artistry, however, compromises the preoccupation in Walcott's work, and in particular in his poetry, with how his own personality, the Caribbean cultural landscape, and the world political scene are characterized by conflict and contradiction. In this dissertation, I shall focus on how Walcott uses his poetry not as a means of stabilizing his personal identity but of establishing how conflicting personal and social elements can interact, undergo mediation, and become transformed without becoming subject to facile resolutions. In my first chapter, I discuss how Walcott grounds his poetry in a quest for an unfettered individuality that, following mainstream twentieth century poetic practice, rejects history and established literary practices for an 'elemental' poetry that is 'created out of nothing.' My second chapter, however, reveals that, in practice, Walcott's poetry actually exposes the unavoidability of a mediating artistry that is rooted in the fluctuations of history. The third and fourth chapters discuss how Walcott's tendency toward a use of artifice manifests itself in a fondness for the Gothic and for an allegorical rather than a realist literary practice. The fifth chapter illustrates how these characteristics of Walcott's poetry combine in an esthetic practice of simulation or displacing and destabilizing repetition that, resulting a collage-like artistic structure, encompasses and highlights the diversity of his artistic heritage. Throughout these first five chapters, I shall use Walcott's autobiographical long poem, Another Life to show how these characteristics operate in his poetry. The last four chapters of the dissertation concentrate on a close reading of Walcott's major poetry collections, revealing how his esthetic of simulation manifests itself in an increasingly complicated structure that brings diverse elements into relation with each other. Chapter Six -- focusing on one of Walcott's earliest and one of his most recent poems shows how his structuring impulse first manifested itself in a fondness for formalism that gradually evolves into a concern for the self-reflexive nature of poetry and language itself. Chapters Seven and Eight concentrate on how Walcott's tendency to highlight the interrelationships among distinct poems develops into a preoccupation with poetic sequence that becomes more deliberate as his poetic career advances. The concluding chapter examines two collections of his poetry from the 1980s as the culmination of his experiments with structure, carried out according to his artistic practice of simulation.
Bibliography: p. 289-295.