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In letters to friends and in interviews later in life, Elizabeth Bishop repeatedly made clear her low opinion of critical writing. At the same time, much of her own criticism and review work is audacious, original and witty, particularly the long essays she completed as an undergraduate student at Vassar. She also admired the work of contemporary poet-critics like William Empson and Randall Jarrell and once pitched for the job as poetry reviewer of The New Yorker. Close analysis of her own prose and poetry demonstrates the extent to which her own writing was itself a form of informal criticism. She engaged with and incorporated the ideas and words of literary critics into her poetry throughout her career, rebuffing reductive assessments of her writing as “calm” and “modest.”
A day later, writing to Robert Lowell, she complained about the students’ poetic influences, in particular the influence of the poet she replaced, Theodore Roethke: “They are so wrapped up in Roethke, still, and he also left an anti-Pound, anti-Eliot heritage, but I go blithely on giving them things they look blasé about – even Tennyson and Keats. The eastern influence! – only here it’s west. One boy gave me 100 haikus – or haikai, as I believe the plural is” (WIA 599). One of Bishop’s students, the artist Wesley Wehr, made notes he later published on what Bishop talked about in the classroom. In her very first class, as if to dispel Roethke’s influence directly, she read Eliot aloud and told them to look up e.e. cummings and the rain poems of Apollinaire. For their first assignment, they were given A. E. Housman to read. “Some of you have very good ears,” she told them. “But your sense of rhyme and form is atrocious.”
Elizabeth Bishop is increasingly recognised as one of the twentieth century's most original writers. Consisting of thirty-five ground-breaking essays by an international team of authors, including biographers, literary critics, poets and translators, this volume addresses the biographical and literary inception of Bishop's originality, from her formative upbringing in New England and Nova Scotia to long residences in New York, France, Florida and Brazil. Her poetry, prose, letters, translations and visual art are analysed in turn, followed by detailed studies of literary movements such as surrealism and modernism that influenced her artistic development. Bishop's encounters with nature, music, psychoanalysis and religion receive extended treatment, likewise her interest in dreams and humour. Essays also investigate the impact of twentieth-century history and politics on Bishop's life writing, and what it means to read Bishop via eco-criticism, postcolonial theory and queer studies.
According to Cushman, rationalization occurs when a person has performed an action and then concocts beliefs and desires that would have made it rational. We argue that this isn't the paradigmatic form of rationalization. Consequently, Cushman's explanation of the function and usefulness of rationalization is less broad-reaching than he intends. Cushman's account also obscures some of rationalization's pernicious consequences.
Jonathan Ellis situates Plath’s work in relation to the American poetry scene of the 1950s and early 1960s. He analyses how a mid-century generation of poets like John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell responded to Modernism through the birth of Confessionalism. Ellis draws on Plath’s letters, journals, poems and stories to analyse her own role in and thinking about this aesthetic turn. He considers the impact of Plath’s contemporaries, Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton, as well as Edith Sitwell, Marianne Moore, May Swenson and Isabella Gardner. Situating Plath’s poetry in relation to the work of these poetic godfathers and godmothers, Ellis looks in particular at questions of gender and nationality.