A Poetics of Water: Cross-Cultural Ecopoetics in a Crisis World
This thesis yokes together ecocriticism, avant-garde poetry, and comparative literature to offer a new approach to studying literary responses to environmental crisis on a global scale. It develops this approach by examining contemporary poetic responses to water and water-based crisis in the work of Cecilia Vicuña, of Chile, Craig Santos Perez, from Gua°han (Guam), and Caroline Bergvall, of French-Norwegian descent. In these diverse poetries, I identify a common emphasis on the irreducible entanglement of language, body, and water. This language-body-water nexus demonstrates our inseparability from our environmental and political contexts, as well as the enmeshment of text with the matter of the world. Vicuña’s El Quipu Menstrual is a ritual installation with accompanying text pieces that speak for and with the Chilean glaciers; her text-based and river–based works Antivero (1981), “Arte Precario” (1997), and her group performance Cloud-Net (1999) show the spatio-temporal reach of her water work and encourage a mode of expression, which moves across waters and languages. Craig Santos Perez’s erasure poetry (2008-2012)—the “from Lisiensan Ga ‘lago” series—discusses the eradication of indigenous language and local water space by dominant powers, while his prose piece “Our Sea of Plastic” (2013) and “ginen all with ocean views” focus on the spatial and identity readjustments instigated by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Bergvall’s Drift deals with the Mediterranean Sea migrant crisis to highlight multiple—sometimes positive, sometimes negative—disorientations within language and identity in flux. These cross-cultural poetic texts engage with the subject’s relation to water environments in a climatically and politically volatile world. By reading them collectively for their shared poetics of water, I develop a framework and example for how we might represent the entanglement of people, water space, and language on a global scale, and so better understand our responsibility to the world environment.
Advisor: Edmond, Jacob; Prentice, Chris
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: English Department
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: ecocriticism; avante-garde; poetry; poetics; cross-cultural; literature
Research Type: Thesis