Date of Award

Fall 2006

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Block, Ed. Jr.

Second Advisor

Hathaway, Heather

Third Advisor

Ratcliffe, Krista


Before this study, there was no published history or extended study of poetry on abortion; there was not even an anthology of poetry on abortion. In collecting and analyzing these poems, I found essentially two types of poems on the subject, what I have called the theoretical or the experiential. I deal with the latter. Whether from the point of view of a doctor, a friend, a woman facing an abortion, a man whose partner faces an abortion, or a fetus, these experiential poems explore one speaker's experience with a particular abortion. After the earliest examples of this poetry, the poems stemming from the confessional mode take a Jess moralizing, more experiential, and hence more thorough, approach to abortion. One of the aspects of these poems that I appreciate most is their ability to convey fully the complexity of this issue in the midst of a discourse that has degenerated into catch phrases and bumper sticker slogans. A close examination of these poems reveals how they transform literary conventions to fit their subject matter and how these innovations are similar across time and culture. They demonstrate the insufficiency of language, especially the insufficiency of existing terminology, imagery, and genre conventions to represent abortion adequately. Their transformation of terminology, imagery, and conventions is often paradoxical, thereby challenging or undermining the assumptions that readers may bring to a poem on abortion. However, because these poems do not approach the issues surrounding abortion as if they were already settled, they have the ability to generate discussion rather than close it off.



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