Myth, anti-myth, post-myth: On Western and Eastern myth and allusions to antiquity in Irish British, expatriate American, local American, and postcolonial modernist poetry (Yeats, Eliot, Williams, Moore, Lorca, Walcott) (W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain, Derek Walcott, St. Lucia).
For many critics of modern poetry, the term "modernism" continues to defy definition. After all, defining what has ever made modernism "new" requires coming to terms with a century-old disagreement about the status of myth and antiquity within modernity. In this dissertation, I argue that by seeing their missions in terms of mythic transformations, anti-mythic liberations, or ironic syntheses of the two, modern British, American, and Postcolonial poets have been profoundly attuned to the paradoxical terms of this debate. By allegedly undertaking to "heal" what they presented as a multifold split in our modern consciousness, for instance, the "mythic modernists" Yeats, Eliot and Pound staged repeated, developing conflicts between their will to visionary apprehension and their sense of "the real." Continually projecting their mythic ideals onto history in order to legitimize their current, often personal disenchantments, they thereby ironized their ontological and political claims for modernity. Williams, Moore, and Stein, in contrast, worked explicitly to liberate their poetry from this entire modus operandi , to free their work of self-conscious mythic paradigms and archaic associations. As a paradoxical result, I argue, the poetry of Williams and his followers can nevertheless be understood only in the context of the mythos that Williams claimed to reject. Moreover, Williams's anti-mythic mythos mirrors the central "mythic modernist" theme of nostos to the fusion of internally opposed aesthetics. Such "post-mythic" partial outsiders to the Anglo-American paradigm as Lorca and Walcott, finally, subsequently satirized this very mythic/anti-mythic paradox in their bids to redefine the history of modernism in terms of the "periphery" to which they could no longer be relegated. I argue throughout this dissertation that the key inventions of each poet should be approached in the context of that poet's personal development, a context inextricably bound up with the larger terms of the mythic/anti-mythic debate. This argument provides an important model for redefining the nature of literary modernism and a key step in restoring these profoundly influential poets to history.