Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Art Simon

Committee Member

Tom Benediktsson

Committee Member

Sharon Lewis


Modern American poet, Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) launched her half- century career in the thirties, a decade marked by an economic crisis in the United States, the rising threat of fascism abroad, and, consequently, by a politically-charged literary culture. Although Rukeyser’s deep engagement with social issues identified her from the start as a poet of the left, she maintained her political and artistic autonomy throughout the decade to shape a highly individualistic radical feminist aesthetic. My analysis of Rukeyser’s three collections from the 1930s: Theory of Flight (1935), U.S. 1 (1938), and A Turning Wind (1939) considers how the poet embraces, transforms, and disrupts the leftist literary conventions and social ideas of the period to merge her leftist and feminist impulses. These texts, I argue, are concerned with joining issues of politics and social change with issues of identity and feminism for a broader understanding of what activist poetry can accomplish. I read the three works within the context of Depression-era feminism to consider how they advance the poet’s idiosyncratic feminist social vision where politics is deeply connected to the personal and female agency is a key component in social reform.

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