Description: This dissertation comprises two sections. The title section collects a volume of the author's original poetry, subdivided into four parts. The concerns of this section are largely aesthetic, although some of the poems involve issues that emerge in the introductory essay. The introductory essay itself looks at slightly over three centuries of poetry in English, and focuses on three representative poems from three distinct periods: the long eighteenth century and the Romantic period in England, and the Post-war period in the United States. John Dryden's translation of Ovid's "Cinyras and Myrrha," John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale," and James Dickey's "The Sheep Child," whatever their stylistic and aesthetic differences may be, all share a concern with taboo. Each of the poems, in its own way, embraces taboo while transgressing societal norms in order to effect a synthesis that merges subject and object in dialectical transcendence. For Dryden, the operative taboo is that placed on incest. In his translation of Ovid, Dryden seizes on the notion of incest as a metaphor for translation itself and views the violation of taboo as fructifying. Keats, in his Nightingale ode, toys with the idea of suicide and reconstructs a world both natural and mythic on the ephemeral foundation of the nightingale's song. Closer to our own time, James Dickey, in "The Sheep Child," envisions a circumstance that forges a union, however transient, between the human and the natural worlds---a union that, in violation of religious taboo, directs gentle parody at the merger of the human world with the divine. Each of the poets employs, in Keats' words, "negative capability" as a tool with which to escape the prescribed order of existence. This ability to "live with uncertainties" beyond the world's conventions fuels the poets' invocation of epiphany, of satori, of the transcendent moment.
Date: August 1999
Creator: Jenkinson, John S.