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Laughter Shared or the Games Poets Play: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Irony in Postwar American Poetry



During and after the First World War, English-language poets employed various ironic techniques to address war's dark absurdities. These methods, I argue, have various degrees of efficacy, depending upon the ethics of the poetry's approach to its reading audience. I judge these ethical discourses according to a poem's willingness to include its readers in the process of poetic construction, through a shared ironic connection. My central ethical test is Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative and Jurgen Habermas's conception of discourse ethics. I argue that without a sense of care and duty toward the reading other (figured in open-ended ironies over dogmatic rhetorics), there can be no social responsibility or reformation, thus testing modernist assumptions about the political usefulness of poetry.I begin with the trench poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, whose sarcastic and satirical ironies are constructed upon a problematic consequentialist ethos. Despite our sympathy for the poets' tragic positions as soldiers, their poems' rhetoric is ultimately coercive rather than politically progressive. It negates the social good it intends by nearly mimicking the unilateral rhetoric that gave rise to the war.The next chapter concerns Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley and T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, fundamental modernist poems defining the postwar Anglo-American era. In contrast to the trench poets, I argue these two poems at their best manage to create an irony of free play, inviting the audience's participation in meaning-making through the irony of self-parody. Traditional ethical critiques of these poets' troubling politics, I argue, do not negate the discourse ethics present in these texts.The final three chapters follow the wartime and postwar ironies of the American poets William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens. Williams, a medical doctor, makes use of the ironic grotesque in his poems to offer the voice of poetry to the disenfranchised, including individuals with disabilities. Moore, a modernist and early feminist, pairs her poems to decenter poetic authority, depicting possible ethical poetic conversations. Finally, Stevens's democratic, pragmatic ethics appears within poetry that continually invites its readers to fill in gaps of meaning about the war and beyond.
机译:第一次世界大战期间和之后,英语诗人运用各种讽刺手法来应对战争的黑暗荒诞。我认为,这些方法具有不同程度的功效,这取决于诗歌对待听众的态度。我根据一首诗歌的意愿来判断这些伦理话语,通过共享的讽刺联系将其读者包括在诗歌的建构过程中。我的核心伦理学检验是康德(Immanuel Kant)的绝对命令和尤尔根·哈贝马斯(Jurgen Habermas)的话语伦理学概念。我认为没有对他人的关心和责任感(对教条修辞学的开放式讽刺),就没有社会责任或改革,因此检验了关于诗歌在政治上有用性的现代主义假设。沟诗人齐格弗里德·沙宣(Siegfried Sassoon)和威尔弗雷德·欧文(Wilfred Owen)的讽刺和讽刺讽刺是建立在一个有问题的后果主义精神之上的。尽管我们同情诗人作为士兵的悲剧立场,但他们诗歌的言辞最终是强制性的,而不是政治上的进步。它几乎模仿了引起战争的单方面言论,否定了它所期望的社会利益。下一章涉及埃兹拉·庞德的休·塞尔文·莫伯利和休斯·艾略特的《荒原》,这是定义战后英美时代的基本现代主义诗歌。与the沟诗人相反,我认为这两首诗尽其所能创造一种具有讽刺意味的自由表演,通过自嘲讽刺来吸引观众参与意义的表达。我认为,对这些诗人令人不安的政治的传统伦理学批评并没有否定这些文本中的话语伦理学。最后三章是美国诗人威廉·卡洛斯·威廉姆斯,玛丽安·摩尔和华莱士·史蒂文斯对战时和战后的讽刺。威廉姆斯(Williams)是一名医生,他在诗歌中运用了讽刺的怪诞色彩,向被剥夺权利的人(包括残疾人)提供诗歌之声。摩尔,现代主义者和早期女权主义者,将她的诗歌与贬低的诗意权威结合在一起,描绘了可能的伦理诗意对话。最终,史蒂文斯的民主,务实的道德观念出现在诗歌中,不断地邀请其读者填补关于战争及其后意义的空白。


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    Summers Stephen;

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