Once upon a time in real time: Auden and Novalis in the poetry of John Ashbery.




Cawston, Cheryl

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This thesis explores the search for core meaning and authentic experience in the poetry of John Ashbery. Building from a close reading of A Worldly Country, it examines the way Ashbery's use of narrative fragments and shifting points of view establish poetry as an encounter with otherness that is dependent on accidents of meaning for its sense of authenticity. Comparisons with the poetry of Ashbery's most important precursor, W. H. Auden, reveal how the influence of German Romanticism emerges with different points of emphasis; Auden's richly ambiguous dualities eventually gave way to a more didactic poetry as he shifted his faith from art to religion, while Ashbery's poetry embodies the fragmented and inconclusive approach of the German poet Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), who developed, through his philosophical writings and the tales embedded in his novels, a double orientation toward the real and the ideal. Novalis confirmed the Märchen, or fairy tale, as a genre of primary importance whose capacity for imaginative excess invites accidental encounters with otherness. Analyses of fairy tales and fairy tale fragments in the work of these poets reveal how mysticism and play can inject into everyday moments feelings of self-transcendence that enable poetry to summon an authentic sense of being in the world.



John Ashbery, meaning, experience, point of view, real, ideal