English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date



The vein of experimental love poetry examined in this project takes advantage of the friction generated by charging both form and content with innovation. The troubled relationship between sex and power is knit directly into the long and dynamic history of love poetry, but there has yet to be a published monograph on the modernist love poem and its implications for literary history. This dissertation fills a major gap in scholarship and speaks to the broader social concerns addressed by public discourse on sex, sexuality, and eros. The body of modernist love poetry includes allusions to traditional love poetry—a tradition in lyric extending from the earliest written poems and culminating in nineteenth-century sentimentality—as well as explicit erotic content, satire, polemic, violence, and anxiety. It is not neatly bounded by nation, gender, race, or aesthetic approach, but nonetheless, this project examines the consistent presence and achievement of experimental Anglophone poets working with the genre. My dissertation begins with a series of case studies examining the work of Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Langston Hughes to elucidate love poetry in its modernist form. The project establishes the place innovative modernist love poetry holds in literary history, and casts forward with two chapters, one on Anne Sexton and Robert Creeley, and another on Harryette Mullen and Bruce Andrews, to illustrate how mid-century and contemporary poets have continued to find new ways of re-imagining the genre.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Higgins, Scarlett

Second Committee Member

Harrison, Gary

Third Committee Member

Golding, Alan

Project Sponsors

Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Foundation




poetry, modernism, love

Document Type