The place of lyric: ethics and aesthetics in Australian ecopoetics and propagules for drift and dispersal
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 10:40 by Willo Drummond
This Master of Research thesis draws on the recent shift in the understanding of lyric in literary-ethical discourse to make a claim for lyric poetry as ethical ecopoetry. Representing Milech and Schilo's "research-question model" for the creative thesis, it asks: to what extent is it possible to maintain an ethical, eco-centric poetics whilst writing in the lyric mode? It then explores this question via two research pathways: critical inquiry, including textual analysis of the work of Australian poet Robert Adamson, and creative writing practice, in the form of a collection of lyric poems: Propagules for drift and dispersal. Although ecocriticism has roots in Romanticism, much discourse around ecopoetry - with its emphasis on ecocentrism and humility toward the non-human world - has come to hinge on a distancing from a ‘Romantic’, ‘ego-driven’ style of poetry, seen to be unethical. Such positions problematize lyric, given its strong association with both Romanticism and the formal centrality of the textual ‘I’. This thesis contends however, that lyric has become conflated with a reductive view of Romanticism and seeks to uncouple lyric from such views. Instead, framing lyric as a mode rather than a genre, and as performative, this thesis presents lyric poetry as an engaged type of ethical discourse which functions via reader answerability. Drawing on phenomenology, extended mind theory, and ‘innovative’ contemporary poetics, it concludes that the lyric can function as a decidedly ethical ecopoetry, via both its material and dialectic performativity: that indeed the “place” of lyric, can also be the place of the ecopoetic.