Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Santa Cruz

The Poetics of Affect in Contemporary Feminist Poetry


The ambition of this dissertation is to articulate a theory of affect that works well with the innovative poetics of four important contemporary feminist poets. The introduction, "Reading for Affect in Contemporary Feminist Poetry," gives an overview of literary affect studies and proposes a way of reading for affect in poetry. The second chapter, "Black Laughter in the Poetry of Harryette Mullen," approaches laughter as a form of affect and explores the ambiguity of that affect through a reading of Mullen's major collections of poetry, all of which employ puns and other double-meanings to comic effect, even while commenting upon serious issues of race and gender. Chapter three, "Language and Affect in the Poetry of Leslie Scalapino," reads for affect in selected works of this Language poet, arguing that despite semantic indeterminacy, affect flourishes. In the fourth chapter, "Lisa Robertson's Feminist Poetic Landscapes," I argue that in several of her major works, Robertson challenges the figure/ground division to create a poetic subjectivity that is a feminist model of interrelatedness. And finally, in the last chapter, "SAD in the Anthropocene: Brenda Hillman's Ecopoetics of Affect," I further explore the ways an affective poetics can develop an ecological subjectivity that is more sensitive to human interrelations with the land. The chapters are organized to emphasize what I see as a trend toward ecopoetics in these works. The ethics of attention to and respect for difference, highly developed in this feminist writing, lends itself very well to a consideration of affective and ecological interrelations. Together, these chapters apply an affective interpretive method to extended studies of the work of four contemporary feminist poets.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View