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Title: John Ashbery and surrealism
Authors: Spittle, David Graham Parnel
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis will demonstrate that an engagement with Surrealism alongside John Ashbery’s poetry can provide a mutually beneficial discussion through which to further understand both. Through its phenomenological attention, Ashbery’s poetry configures the everyday experience of his reality in a way that responds to, and invites, a surrealist perspective. The first chapter explores Joseph Cornell, collecting and the ‘found object’, with an emphasis on Ashbery’s first collection, Some Trees (1956). The second Chapter examines dreams and dreaming throughout Ashbery’s first four collections, ending with an analysis of Three Poems (1972). Merleau-Ponty is used to demonstrate the oneiric implications of Ashbery’s poetics of phenomenology as a basis for Surrealism, whereby a perception of reality becomes comparable to a dream. My third chapter presents Ashbery’s book-length poem Flow Chart (1991) alongside the Canadian filmmaker, Guy Maddin. The concept of noise, alongside the pioneering presence of Surrealism in early radio, is used to understand treatments of memory that connect Maddin’s films to Ashbery’s interruptive poetics and lead both to be understood through Georges Bataille’s notion of ‘The Labyrinth’. The fourth chapter discusses the relationship between visual perspective and a surrealist imagining of childhood. This chapter returns to the enduring importance of ‘The Skaters’ in order to understand the poem’s relation to collage, ‘play’ and metaphor as key examples of how Ashbery’s poetry comes to realise Breton’s surrealist dictum: ‘always for the first time’.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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