The synecdochic prospect: a rhetorical view of the emergence of a modern poetic from the romantic symbol to Hart Crane's The bridge
This dissertation is an attempt to show the role the figure of synecdoche plays in Romantic and Post-Romantic poetry. I argue that we cannot understand the pressure on poetic language experienced by these poets unless we recognize the tensions felt between the pull of particularizing descriptions and the need to preserve some sphere of universals traditionally sustained by allegorical modes of writing. The Romantic symbol is a form reconciling these pulls, but the internal tensions require three different fundamental strategies for exploring the immanence attributed to synecdoche.Victorian poets find it impossible to maintain this faith in immanence, so their most characteristic verse experiences the tension in the guise of a synecdoche of privation. The poet cannot be satisfied by particulars or parts; a nagging sense of the whole remains, but the only emotional power this sense of a whole engenders is despairing reminders of its absence. Only Browning among the Victorians found a way of avoiding this poetic despondency. He turned to a perspectivist version of idealism in which glimpses of personality would elicit a sense of love and hint of total human powers. Whitman develops a similar, but richer response to the Victorian style of elaborating part-whole relations which counter the individualism of democracy by visions of what shred principles permeate natural, psychological and social experience.Finally, modern poets turn to constitutive uses of synecdoche in which the parts are deliberately employed to create a sense of ideal wholes which have no empirical or descriptive status. Eliot and Crane represent two contrasting versions of this orientation. I show how they change their predecessors's use of synecdoche, and by focusing on synecdoche I explain the underlying structural principles of Crane's epic, The Bridge.
- English