English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date



My dissertation analyzes the relationship between the concept of metaphysical belief and the poetic innovations enlisted to articulate this belief in the works of British modernist poets W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, T.S. Eliot, Basil Bunting, Philip Larkin, and Thom Gunn. Moving from Celtic mythos to Buddhist philosophy, Anglo-Catholic prayer to ancient Greek burial rites, I argue that spirituality and poetic experimentation were reciprocal influences: modernist experimentations in poetic form had a direct impact on how poets represented and articulated metaphysical beliefs and practices, and these metaphysical concepts themselves significantly affected these poets development of their craft, prompting consideration of what makes poetry itself believable for modern readers. While several studies analyze the religious and spiritual interests of modernist writers, demonstrating that secularization does not accurately categorize English literature of the early twentieth century, my project moves beyond proving that modernists were believers and instead employs belief as an active critical term for literary analysis. Each chapter examines how a particular British modernist poet employs belief as a condition that allows poetic form and metaphysical concepts to intersect in productive ways. Rather than merely dismissing or advocating for belief in certain metaphysical concepts, these poets scrutinize, re-conceptualize, and re-imagine poetic forms, spiritual ideologies, and religious structures so as to render belief in the metaphysical, and in poetry as a conduit for the metaphysical, to become relevant and necessary possibilities in the twentieth century.'

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Hofer, Matthew

First Committee Member (Chair)

Harrison, Gary

Second Committee Member

Hunt, Aeron

Third Committee Member

Chinitz, David




modernism, poetry, poetics, belief, metaphysical, religion

Document Type