The World Lyric: Towards a Poetics of the Global

Hunter, Walter, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ramazani, Jahan, Department of English, University of Virginia
Wicke, Jennifer, Department of English, University of Virginia
Cushman, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia

“The World Lyric: Towards a Poetics of the Global” argues that the modern lyric poem imaginatively constructs a global subject. This project considers a group of writers whose poetry makes visible the rise, expansion, and development of modern forms of globalization: from mid-nineteenth-century diaspora, to early twentieth-century empire and colonization, to the financialization of the world economic system after World War II, and finally to the economic and social conditions of the present. I argue that the modern lyric’s attachment to the “I,” so often considered the vehicle of self-expression, uniquely captures the tensions between the subject of accelerating global convergence and the “I” of political and economic oppression. Building on the important conversations about the role of lyric poetry and the centrality of literary genres to political agency launched by critics as various as James Longenbach, Jacques Rancière, and Virginia Jackson, the project also brings to bear on modern poetics the new considerations of global theory and political ethics, from the thinking of Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, and Gianni Vattimo to the issues of "precarious life" in Judith Butler and Paulo Virno, along with questions of global solidarity and scarcity.
The first chapter explores the forging of a diasporic Irish lyric by Jane Wilde, Lady Gregory, and W. B. Yeats from the mass emigration and economic oppression of the Great Hunger. Next, I turn to lyrics of empire by the Caribbean poet Claude McKay, whose dialect ballads and sonnets address the condition of colonized subjects on the move from Kingston to New York to North Africa. Bringing the lyric into the Cold War period of US hegemony, my third chapter focuses on James Merrill, who merges the lyric with the epic in order to sing global crisis. Building on the work of social theorists and philosophers who have recently turned to lyric to understand precarity (Berlant, Berardi, Badiou), the coda considers a group of contemporary poets who take up classical lyric modes of exhortation and blame, dynamically transforming the sovereign “I” into a precarious “we.”

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
literature, poetry, twentieth-century literature, ethics, transnationalism, global studies
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