Entangled times, bodies, texts: mathematical form in contemporary Anthropocene poetry

Cooper-Smithson, H., 2021. Entangled times, bodies, texts: mathematical form in contemporary Anthropocene poetry. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This creative-critical thesis explores the entanglements of times, bodies and texts, and the strategies of form and scale, that comprise a poetics of the Anthropocene. Consisting of three critical chapters and a collection of poetry, the thesis interrogates ecocritical ideas about contemporary poetics, taking inspiration from the fields of science and mathematics. Through the analysis of mathematically inspired forms in the work of Inger Christensen, Alice Fulton, and Stephanie Strickland, and the use of repeating forms in my own collection, The Auspices & Other Futures, I seek to establish how the vast, disconcerting scale of our physical and temporal entanglements with the more-than-human world can be represented, or illuminated, through form in contemporary poetry.

In Chapter One, I analyse Christensen’s 1981 poetry collection, Alphabet, through the lens of Daniel Cordle’s work on nuclear anxiety (2008, 2017), Jacques Derrida’s work on spectrality (1994), and David Farrier’s writing on the poetics of ‘thick time’ (2019). I put forward a theory of an ‘irradiated poetics’ that reflects the complexity and scale of geological deep time through temporally-distorting alphabetical, mathematical, and repeating formal structures. In Chapter Two, I turn to Fulton’s 1995 collection, Sensual Math, and her essays on a fractal poetics inspired by the work of mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot (1977). Drawing on the ecocritical work of Donna Haraway (2003, 2008) and literary theories of monstrosity from Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (2006), Mikhail Bakhtin (1984) and Derrida (1988), I argue that a poetics inspired by fractal shapes can formally enact the monstrous, physical entanglement of human bodies in the Anthropocene. My third chapter examines formal connection in Strickland’s V, a poem which exists variously as two print books (2002, 2014), an app and a digital programme, through the lens of ‘constellation’ – the act of making meaning through constructed association (Krauβ 2011). With reference to Roland Barthes’ work on the woven text (1975, 1977), Nicholas Royle’s literary theory of veering (2011), and Derrida’s work on iteration and the unreadable text (1974, 2004), I argue that V brings to light various formal strategies of connectedness that can be used to establish a poetics of constellation that captures the complex interconnected nature of our Anthropocene existence. I conclude the thesis by arguing that a poetics of the Anthropocene must also be a poetics of the future. Drawing on Farrier’s work on ‘future fossils’ (2020), and Kate Rigby’s proposal of Anthropocene poetry as ‘prophetic witness’ (2009), I look to the revelatory potential of an Anthropocene poetics that makes use of spectral, monstrous, constellating strategies of form.

This critical-creative thesis is an inextricably entangled web of research, a multi-genre knot that echoes the multi-species, multi-temporal nature of life in the Anthropocene. The critical chapters are in constant dialogue with my own poetic practice; my collection The Auspices & Other Futures is, therefore, to be read as both a response to, and in constellation with, the poetry of Christensen, Fulton, and Strickland, as well as the myriad theoretical and critical voices found in the first three chapters. Stephen Benson and Clare Connors argue that ‘the marking in writing of our reading or looking or listening’ is ‘the heart of all criticism’ (Benson and Connors, 2014: 3). This thesis is thus the marking in critical and creative writing of my encounters with works of Anthropocene literature, as I seek to uncover and interrogate the entangled forms of Anthropocene times, bodies, and texts.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Cooper-Smithson, H.
Date: February 2021
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the Nottingham Trent University Quality Handbook Supplement Requirements for submission of a research degree thesis September 2019 page 2 QHS11A information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 24 Sep 2021 11:49
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2021 11:49
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/44246

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