Abstract

Recent discussions of the suburbs in American literature have largely ignored poetry. I focus on the work of four modern poets who expressed concerns over the suburbanization of natural and agricultural areas. I argue that, amidst the pre-World War II transformation of the countryside, modern poets questioned the viability of the pastoral mode. These poets sought to determine whether new suburban environments could furnish the natural imagery and poetic individuality that this mode entails. I suggest specifically that William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens depict their domestic environments as varieties of suburbs. Their poems demonstrate that suburban Americans can locate or imagine pastoral spaces within residential grids. By contrast, the New York modernists Hart Crane and Louis Zukofsky perceived suburbs as insurmountable obstructions to the pastoral mode and poetic individuality. Modern poetry’s variety of responses to suburbanization can enrich our views of American poetry and pastoral writing.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 122-142
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Open Access
No
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