Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Honours)

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Susan Ash

Abstract

This thesis examines the poetry of Lola Ridge as a form of alternative Modernism. Poet, editor, anarchist, Lola Ridge is largely an unknown identity in Modernist discourses. Primarily recognised as a social justice poet, her work has been viewed through a traditional Modernist lens and excluded to the periphery as ‘sentimental’. This thesis argues that Ridge personally and professionally exceeds these categories. She modelled a practice of engagement in her personal life by actively participating in rallies and protests against injustice, and living in poverty in solidarity with the poor, giving her work an authenticity worth investigating. Her poetry provides a literary montage of underclass life in an industrial capitalist society and operates as a social critique of ideals in practice, measuring progress through the effect of social and public policy on the body. I contend that her work represents an alternative Modernism which would include an exposition of power relations at work in society and on the body. Chapter One contextualises Ridge’s life and work within the domain of High Modernism and the divide between American and European versions, establishing the grounds for her marginalisation. Chapter Two contextualises both the sentimental and Georgian poetics, laying the foundation for analysing Ridge’s poetry. Chapter Three demonstrates through close reading of selected poems how Ridge’s aesthetic fuses the sentimental concern for the body with a style that resonates with Georgian trench practice to implicate the bystander - and thus the reader - as complicit in the suffering of the others. I argue that these practices establish Ridge as a renegade Modernist, strategically integrating a range of forms to engage the reader in an ethical conversation, to confront their own complicity, an ethical practice she sought to model throughout her life.

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