Description: Over the last sixty years, overtly intertextual poems with titles such as “Poem Beginning with a Line by John Ashbery” and “Poem Ending with a Line by George W. Bush” have been appearing at an increasing rate in magazines and collections. These poems wed themselves to other texts and authors in distinct ways, inviting readers to engage with poems which are, themselves, in conversation with lines from elsewhere. These poems, which I refer to as “apprompted” poems, explicitly challenge readers to investigate the intertextual conversation, and in doing so, they adopt inherent risks. My thesis will chart the various effects these poems can have for readers and the consequences they may hold for the texts from which they borrow. Literary critics such as Harold Bloom and J. H. Miller have described the act of borrowing as competitive and parasitic—“agon” is Bloom’s term for what he sees as the oedipal anxiety of poets and poets’ texts to their antecedents, but an investigation of this emerging genre in terms of linguistic pragmatics shows that apprompted poems are performing a wider range of acts in relation to their predecessors. Unlike Bloom’s theory, which interprets the impulse of poetic creation through psychoanalysis, I employ linguistic terms from Brown and Levinson’s linguistic Politeness theory to analyze apprompted poems as conversational speech events. Politeness theory provides a useful analysis of these poems by documenting the weight of threats to the positive and negative “faces” of the participants in each poetic conversation. I have documented these “face-threatening-acts” and used them to divide apprompted poems into five major speech events: satire, revision, promotion, pastiche, and ecclesiastic. Ultimately, this paper serves at the intersection of literary criticism and linguistics, as I suggest a theoretical approach to the interpretation and criticism of apprompted poems by way of linguistic pragmatics.
Date: August 2015
Creator: Gibson, Kimberly Dawn