Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Marilyn Kallet

Committee Members

Arthur E. Smith, Alisa M. Schoenbach, Amy L. Neff

Abstract

Sentiment in verse has a long and complicated history throughout which it has fluctuated in and out of vogue depending upon the tastes of the time. A poem that is too “sentimental” is one in which the author relies too heavily on emotion to incite a stereotypical response in the reader. In this type of writing emotion is emphasized at the expense of craft. Conversely, when sentiment is consciously used as a tool it can help to infuse writing with active and genuine emotion which help to broaden a reader’s understanding of a poem. The emotion is an active and important part of the poem, aiding the effect of the whole rather than dominating it. The use of sentiment is a problem that faces many contemporary poets. What this refers to is the choice contemporary poets often make concerning whether or not to include sentiment, and the degree to which they want their work and their identities associated with it. Contemporary female poets find themselves in a difficult position wherein they often write about topics that would logically benefit by being approached from the perspective of sentiment, but sometimes these poets actively choose to write without using sentiment because they have come of age in a poetry culture that devalues the use of sentiment and distrusts a poet who employs it. Some poets bridge this divide by embracing sentiment as tool. Sentiment provides poets with an outlet for truth in self-expression, and if used carefully and artfully, poets who incorporate it into their work can find a place for their poems in the wider world of poetry.

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