Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Urban Exile: City Poetry by Modern American Women examines women's experience of urbanism in the early twentieth century, as depicted in the poetry of four modernist American women writers: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, Evelyn Scott, and Lola Ridge. I bring to light a common experience of urban exile: a persistent state of insecurity, displacement, damage, and marginalization of women in cities. My work brings women and American women's poetry into the critical conversation about city literature, a conversation that has mostly focused on the experience of men in cities told by male writers. Recuperating the theme of urban exile reorients the larger story about modernism's relationship to the urban boom, particularly the ways that narrative silences women's critiques of city spaces. My project also redresses the canonical exile of two important, yet overlooked American modernist women, Evelyn Scott and Lola Ridge, and expands existing scholarship on Millay and Lowell by considering their representations of the body and the urban environment. This project is built from detailed close-readings that consider both poetic form and content, and are grounded in the context of urban history and culture. Through an interdisciplinary approach which incorporates feminist geography, trauma theory, and cultural studies, I explore issues related to gender and the integration of women in city spaces, including threats of sexual violence and harassment, marginalization, and discrimination. I use ecocritical theory and urban studies to examine the transformation of the urban space, its effects---like pollution, congestion, and urban sprawl---and its impact on women's bodies and the environment. Through this research, I provide a picture of what it was like to be a woman in the city in the early twentieth century balancing the desire to take hold of new freedom and opportunities, while constantly dealing with environmental and cultural threats.
Clifford, Hatley, "Urban Exile: City Poetry by Modern American Women" (2018). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 5374.