Abstract

Muriel Rukeyser is often regarded as a poet of the 1930s literary left.As this essay argues however, Rukeyser underwent a transformation during the 1940s from a proletarian into a pragmatist committed to pluralist values necessary for confronting totalitarianism abroad. Ultimately, this commitment to pluralism and multiple perspectives led to her use of ekphrasis (poetry descriptive of visual art), which is itself a "pluralist" form that incorporates both language and visual imagery. Part of this wartime transformation was derived from her readings of John Dewey,William James, and the nineteenth-century chemist Willard Gibbs. Another part of this shift grew out of her work developing warposters at the Office of War Information, President Roosevelt's World War II propaganda agency. Both Gibbs's theories of multiple perspectives and the war-poster itself suggested a formal pluralism opposed to fascist unity. This new perspective is most evident in her major war poem "Ajanta" (1944).

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4286
Print ISSN
0093-3139
Pages
pp. 1-29
Launched on MUSE
2006-04-19
Open Access
No
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