Date of Award

5-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Marilyn Kallet

Committee Members

Arthur Smith, Amy Billone, John Romeiser

Abstract

The poems in Illusions of Safety bear witness to growing up on a farm in Alabama and how rural life—whether traumatic or romantic—influences a narrator who falls outside of her family’s norms. In their attempt to investigate the complexities of the notion of safety, the poems primarily rely on space (and the conflicting ideals of both security and splintering associated with space) by developing the space on the page through form and by juxtaposing city with country, fields with rooms, and the West with the South. The poems seek to understand what is safe, what can be safe, what should be safe, and what happens when those expectations are shattered. This attempt to understand is filtered through different aspects of enclosure: imagery, language, and form.

The critical introduction examines (in both my own poems and others’ work) the poetics of enclosure, investigating how writers employ the concept of enclosure through imagery, language, and poetic form as a method of control and independence, how authors utilize enclosure to draw attention to normalizing expectations of society on gender and sexuality, and how authors use enclosure in more redemptive ways, redefining space against these normative effects. The poems and critical introduction investigate who we become when enclosure is imposed on us or when it fails to meet our expectations. The main goal of this project is to argue that while enclosure is often imposed on us (both literally and figuratively) by society or by those closest to us (including ourselves), it can also often be a sanctuary, a place of redemption and rebirth, and breaking from enclosure can be equally redemptive.

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