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Conventions of Closeness: Realism and the Creative Friendship of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


While it has been productive to consider the creative friendship of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell as grounded in a “shared experience of outsider-hood,” their correspondence and the poems they inspired each other to write reveal a shared attraction to conventional imagery of communal belonging—national allegiance, heterosexual domesticity, and nostalgia for the classical realism of nineteenth-century novels. Bishop and Lowell were a queer couple for many reasons, but I argue that their conflation of conventionality and social critique resonates strongly with recent theories of counterculture in reflecting the possibility—often taken to be a nightmare of lyric poets—that one's inner life is inhabited and shaped by another.

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Copyright © 2012 by The Modern Language Association of America

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