Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Michael Robbins

Subject(s)

Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978)--Criticism and interpretation, English women poets--20th century, Lesbians in literature

Abstract

This thesis works to question the peculiar relationship between form and subject in the intimate poems of the undeservedly forgotten voice of Sylvia Townsend Warner. We will engage with feminist, lesbian, and modernist criticism to help explain why a writer placed so richly in the prime of modernism and with a revolutionary Communist spirit sometimes depicts in her verse a conservative, domestically repressed female speaker who is often silenced, subdued, and controlled by her female lover—and why Warner choses to construct these subjects using more formal poetic strategies.

Sylvia Townsend Warner is an important figure to examine, as there is rich discourse to be had about how women writers - and especially lesbian writers - of the time were still so often confined to a particular literary space, both in mode and matter, and how they worked to challenge that space. In the three chapters of this thesis, we explore how Warner employs strategies of subtle coding in order to form an open dialogue about lesbian love—creating poems riddled with heterosexual play, gender blurring, overt power dynamics, the inversion of Romantic tropes, and discourse on the creation of poetry, all which speak to the double-bound nature of the lesbian existence in the early twentieth century.

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