|dc.description.abstract||This thesis provides a new way of reading the Romantic inheritance and spiritual themes in Mary Oliver’s poetry, through a framework that accommodates her paradoxical poetical and spiritual subjectivities. Existing scholarship characterizes Oliver’s poetry as feminist, Romantic, ecopoetical, or theistic, but this study resists placing singular classifications on her work in order to illustrate that hers is an explorative poetic project, which is formed out of ambiguities and paradoxes. I employ the concept of flourishing, which is a synthesis of feminist theological, ecological feminist, and deep ecological definitions, as a new framework through which to read Oliver’s contradictions. Flourishing is based on the physical and spiritual interconnectedness, or mutuality, between the human, nature, and God, which results not only in the continuance of life, but also in an expansion of sympathy and knowledge of other subject positions. Flourishing occurs through mutuality, which does not attempt to create likeness between the human, nature, and God, but aims to interconnect them through an ethic of inclusion. Flourishing is itself paradoxical because it depends on interconnectedness at the same time that it maintains the boundaries of each different body.
I will use the framework of flourishing to examine the paradoxical poetical model that Mary Oliver creates in her prose writing, which she then applies to an exploration of subjectivities in her lyric practice. Flourishing will also illuminate Oliver’s depiction of intuitive religion and naturalized spirituality, which are anti-authoritarian, anti-formalistic, and based on subjective spiritual experience. In contrast with intuitive forms of religion and spirituality, flourishing will also be used to examine Oliver’s moralized landscapes and traditional representations of the divine, both of which represent a more conventional doctrinal or orthodox belief system. Throughout this thesis, I will establish how flourishing elucidates Oliver’s paradoxical poetical and spiritual model, which, through her re-formulation of the lyric tradition, resists a singular subject position in favor of an ethic of mutuality and inclusion.||