American Landscape in the Poetry of Frost, Bishop, and Ashbery: The House Abandoned

Overview

Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Ashbery stand out among major American poets—all three shaped the direction and pushed the boundaries of contemporary poetry on an international scale. Drawing on biography, cultural history, and original archival research, MacArthur shows us that these distinctive poets share one surprisingly central trope in their oeuvres: the Romantic scene of the abandoned house. This book scrutinizes the popular notion of Frost as a deeply rooted New Englander, demonstrates that Frost...

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American Landscape in the Poetry of Frost, Bishop, and Ashbery: The House Abandoned

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Overview

Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Ashbery stand out among major American poets—all three shaped the direction and pushed the boundaries of contemporary poetry on an international scale. Drawing on biography, cultural history, and original archival research, MacArthur shows us that these distinctive poets share one surprisingly central trope in their oeuvres: the Romantic scene of the abandoned house. This book scrutinizes the popular notion of Frost as a deeply rooted New Englander, demonstrates that Frost had an underestimated influence on Bishop—whose preoccupation with houses and dwelling is the obverse of her obsession with travel—and questions dominant, anti-biographical readings of Ashbery as an urban-identified poet. As she reads poems that evoke particular landscapes and houses lost and abandoned by these poets, MacArthur also sketches relevant cultural trends, including patterns of rural de-settlement, the transformation of rural economies from agriculture to tourism, and modern American’s increasing mobility and rootlessness.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"MacArthur reveals how the three poets' attraction to the trope derived from childhood experience and was reinforced by the course their adult lives took.  Her acute readings take into account historical factors such as rural emigration resulting in a proliferation of abandoned houses; homelessness during the Depression; fears in Europe of the destruction of dwelling during the buildup to World War II; and the postwar rise of rural tourism, desire for second homes, and the vogue for historical restoration."--Frank J. Kearful, American Literary Scholarship

“MacArthur's book is striking for its scrupulous research.  She makes the figure of the abandoned house surprisingly resonant and timely. She gives new vitality to biography as an approach to poetry, in part because she eschews psychoanalysis for a more common-sense phenomenological approach that proves especially apposite and challenging in her approach to Ashbery's work.”—Charles Altieri, Rachel Anderson Stageberg Chair of English, University of California, Berkeley

“The eye is the first circle, Emerson declared. Americans are always on the move, pushing ahead toward new horizons. Yet modern American poetry is also strewn with abandoned houses, pulling us back into their stories and mysteries. MacArthur offers the first broad reading of this push-pull trope, showing its permutations in three of the twentieth-century's most important writers. The book blends fresh critical readings with original research into the biographies and landscapes of these poets, to remind us that the imagination finds its source and its renewal in experience.”—Bonnie Costello, Professor, Boston University and author of Shifting Ground: Reinventing Landscape in Modern American Poetry

“This attractive and interesting book speaks to our deep longing for home, and our nostalgia for what cannot be regained. MacArthur's study is focused on the poetry of Frost, Bishop, and Ashbery—three of our most compelling poets—but she casts a wider net, locating in the image of the abandoned house a kind of total symbol, one that pulls into its longings a sense of the consequences of historical patterns of American migration and casual exploitation of the nation’s natural resources. This beautifully written book should attract a wide audience beyond the usual boundaries of criticism.”—Jay Parini, D. E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing, Middlebury College

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Marit J. MacArthur is Assistant Professor of English at California State University, Bakersfield.

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Table of Contents

The House Abandoned
• Robert Frost: “The Ruined Cottage” in America
• Elizabeth Bishop: Incarnations of the “Crypto-Dream-House”
• John Ashbery: The Farm on the Lake at the End of the Mind

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