Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Todd McGowan

Second Advisor

Eric Lindstrom



The premise of my thesis is to approach poetics anew, using psychoanalysis and other related theoretical disciplines to help answer the often overlooked but fundamental question: 'What is poetry?' This thesis is based on the notion that Freud's insight into the unconscious is itself the key to unlocking the essential function of poetry as it has come to be understood in the 20th century, throughout the modernist period; and that Lacan, as a rewriting of Freud, specifically developed a theory of language that provides the beginnings of a psychoanalytic poetics. Another component of this thesis involves the claim that, of all the modernists, Wallace Stevens particularly embodies a poetic style that most closely embodies the theoretical position of psychoanalysis.

In the first chapter of this study my aim is to draw out thoroughly the relationship to Freudian psychoanalysis and poetry'and to make the specific argument that Freud's technique for dream interpretation is essentially the one that we use to interpret or to read modern poetry.

The second chapter deals with repetition, a favorite of psychoanalysis and poetry, in order to make the claim that the ultimate form of metaphor is repetition, which, more than just a rhetorical technique, has much to do with the human psyche and the formation of subjectivity proper.



Number of Pages

47 p.