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Representations of women in the poetry of Thomas Kinsella

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This dissertation addresses the representation of women in the poetry of the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella. Using a variety of theoretical approaches, including historical criticism, French feminist theory and Jungian psychoanalytical theory, I argue that although women are an integral

This dissertation addresses the representation of women in the poetry of the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella. Using a variety of theoretical approaches, including historical criticism, French feminist theory and Jungian psychoanalytical theory, I argue that although women are an integral part of Kinsella's ongoing aesthetic project of self-interrogation, their role in his poetry is deeply problematic from a feminist perspective. For purposes of my discussion I have divided my analysis into three categories of female representation: the realistically based figure of the poet's wife Eleanor, often referred to as the Beloved; female archetypes and anima as formulated by the psychologist C.G. Jung; and the poetic trope of the feminized Muse. My contention is that while the underlying effect of the early love and marriage poems is to constrain the female subject by reinforcing stereotypical gender positions, Kinsella's aesthetic representation of this relationship undergoes a transformation as his poetry matures. With regard to Kinsella's mid-career work from the 1970s and the 1980s I argue that the poet's aesthetic integration of Jungian archetypes into his poetry of psychic exploration fundamentally influences his representation of women, whether real or archetypal. These works represent a substantial advance in the complexity of Kinsella's poetry; however, the imaginative power of these poems is ultimately undermined by the very ideas that inspire them - Jungian archetypal thought - since women are represented exclusively as facilitators and symbols on this male-centered journey of self-discovery. Further complicating the gender dynamics in Kinsella's poetry is the presence of the female Muse. This figure, which becomes of increasing importance to the poet, transforms from an aestheticized image of the Beloved, to a sinister snake-like apparition, and finally into a disembodied voice that is a projection of the poet and his alter-ego. Ultimately, Kinsella's Muse is an aesthetic construction, the site of inquiry into the difficulties inherent in the creative process, and a metaphor for the creative process itself. Through his innovative deployment of the trope of the Muse, Kinsella continues to advance the aesthetics of contemporary Irish poetry.

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2013

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Leaning

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At its core, Leaning finds profound significance in unlikely moments of intimate

detail; the upkeep of a brother's gravesite, for example, is as quietly important as rummaging through a collection of sex toys. Haiku-like in their simplicity, meditation, and declaration, these poems give meaning to the smallness of our world.

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2015