UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
I, Erica G Dawson , hereby submit this original work as part of the requirements for the degree of: Doctor of Philosophy in English & Comparative Literature It is entitled: Cottontail
Student Signature: Erica G Dawson
This work and its defense approved by: Committee Chair: Donald Bogen, PhD Donald Bogen, PhD
6/6/2010 851 Cottontail
A dissertation submitted to the
Graduate School of the University of Cincinnati
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
in the Department of English and Comparative Literatures of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences
Erica Gloria Dawson
B.A., The Johns Hopkins University, 2001 M.F.A., The Ohio State University, 2006
Committee Chair: Dr. Don Bogen Abstract:
Cottontail presents a collection of poems informed by Early Modern British Literature and American Poetry since 1900, focusing on their definitions of self-fashioning discourse and authorship while highlighting respective important themes and popular poetics, revealing the ways in which the Early Modern period is a foundation for today’s poetry. The Early Modern poets, in their attempts to define the Self vs. Other (attempts mediated by changing perceptions of public and private space as mid-17th century bourgeois society increasingly places the body within the confines of cozy, candle-lit chambers), initialize the search for a more complex understanding of experience dependent on subjectivity and predicated on interactions with others. These poets expressed these shifting perceptions within the poetic restrictiveness of traditional forms; these forms, however, prove generative as each author becomes a kind of idolatrous iconoclast: preserving the traditions of the past while generating new traditions of their own. The modern voices of Cottontail display a contemporary author’s writing of the self, utilizing theories of a Neoplatonic World Soul, popular with Early Modern poets, where the intellectual realm is very much linked to the material realm. The poems also employ Foucault’s theory of an author whose writing does not obliterate the self but rather builds it. The voices of Cottontail create a compilation of a marginalized self (a poet, black and female), reliant on the careful manipulation of language in a specific, transformative, and present historical moment in our country’s narrative.
I want to thank the editors of the following journals where these poems (some under different titles and in different versions) first appeared:
“Five Minutes from the River,” “Tar Baby,” Raintown Review, Spring 2010
“Go ‘Head Girl, Go ‘Head Get Down,” “Repossessed,” “Stasimon,” Avatar Review, Spring 2010
“A Monkey and a Man,” The Nervous Breakdown, January 2010
“Freakshow,” The Country Dog Review, Spring 2009
“One Fish Two Fish,” Verse Daily, Spring 2009
“Mojo like a Mofo,” Verse Daily, Spring 2009
“I’ve Got Anima-Soul and I’m Superbad,” “Mean Ol’ Wind Died Down,” “Mojo like a Mofo,” The Harvard Review, Winter 2009
“One Fish Two Fish,” Raintown Review, Winter 2009
“For Astrophil,” Alehouse Review, No. 3, Fall 2008
“Intermission,” The Warwick Review, Fall 2008
“As It Were,” Sewanee Theological Review, Vol. 51: 4, Fall 2008
“Little Black Boy Heads,” Iron Horse Literary Review, Spring 2008
I want to extend enormous thanks to the University of Cincinnati, Professors Jon Kamholtz, John Drury, and especially Don Bogen; and, the Albert C. Yates Foundation and Charles Phelps Taft Research Center.
Thank you to Dr. Evans, Dr. Webel, Dr. Leonard and Dr. Brady for saving me.
To the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Greg Williamson, and the inimitable Caki Wilkinson, Juliana Gray, Isabel Galbraith, thank you.
Finally, with all my heart, I give eternal gratitude and love to Mandy, Frank, Dad, and Mom.
v Table of Contents
I. Repossessed 4 Rock Me, Mama 6 Go ‘Head Girl, Go ‘Head Get Down 7 I Got Anima-Soul and I’m Superbad 7 Front Matter 9 Stasimon 10 A Monkey and a Man 11 Night of the Lepus (It Should Be a Bald Eagle-Like National Treasure) 15 Iguanas Fall from Trees 17 Aerial 18
II. MoJo like a MoFo 21 Little Black Boy Heads 22 Freakshow 23 Tar Baby 25 Mid-Matter Mother Nature 27 One Fish, Two Fish 28 Mother Knowledge 29 Spanking the Arils from a Pomegranate 30 She’s Got It. Yeah Baby, She’s Got It. 31 A Poem That’s Not a Song or Set in the South 32
III. Intermission 34 Night of the Lepus (It’s Ok If You Don’t Want a Remake) 35 U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you… 37 For Astrophil 44 For Aphra Behn as I in Oroonoko 45 For Tamburlaine 46 New NASA Missions Rendezvous with Moon I. Pre-launch 47 II. Contact 48 III. A hit? 49 IV. A hit 50 V. Houston… 51 VI. …we have a problem 52 VII. Re-entry 53
Back Matter 55
vi Night of the Lepus (Fin) 58 Five Minutes from the River 60 As It Were Right Now 61 Probably Not 62 Or Rather 63 Perhaps 64 And Yet 65 Nevertheless 67 Another View 68 Be That As It May 70
The Fictive Who: Abjection, Authorship, and the Assertion of Selfhood in Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella 71