Author Date

2020-6

Degree Name

BA

Department

English

College

Humanities

Defense Date

2020-06-05

Publication Date

2020-06-16

First Faculty Advisor

Trent Hickman

Second Faculty Advisor

Nicholas Mason

Honors Coordinator

John Talbot

Keywords

Robert Lowell, Poetry Reading, oral poetry

Abstract

This thesis examines elements of improvisation and performance in the poetry readings of Robert Lowell from 1955 to 1977 by analyzing audio recordings of Lowell’s readings and comparing them to his early drafts and published work. As a poet known for incessantly editing his poetry, Robert Lowell uses poetry readings as a venue for experimenting with his poetry before publication, for catering his work to specific audiences, and for memorializing his life in prose. The time period this thesis is concerned with correlates with a rise in New Oral Poetry in the U.S., which created popular new venues for poetry performance and emphasized the extra-textual elements of a poem read aloud for a live audience. Robert Lowell’s readings are contextualized by this larger movement in American poetry and raise questions concerning the finality of his poetry and his collected works as a complete canon.

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