Beyond Words: Poetic Authority and Voice in the Works of Claudia Rankine and John Taggart

Yes, Literally My Whole Thesis

Click Here To Open the PDF.

Below you will find summaries of each of the three chapters included in the thesis.



Chapter One: Musicality and Poetic Faith in Taggart’s Middle Period

Chapter One takes a look at the period of John Taggart characterized by repetition. Focus will be on poems from the book Peace on Earth, specifically “Slow Songs for Mark Rothko” and the first section of “Marvin Gaye Suite.” These texts exemplify Taggart’s concern with a poetics of an incantation-like attention. In “Slow Song” Taggart focuses on a quote from Mark Rothko originally published in Possibilities in 1947: “It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one’s arms again." The first section of “Marvin Gaye Suite” is a poem based off a specific 1971 rendition of the song “What’s Going On.” These poems demonstrate the distillation of musical and religious poetic authority for Taggart. 

Chapter Two: The Reimagining of Voice in Rankine’s American Lyrics

Chapter Two takes on the poetics of Claudia Rankine. Rankine’s work is centered around the inseparability of the relationship between the social and personal. Her two most recent works, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (2004) and Citizen (2014), both focus on what it means to be a present-day American. These texts are at once communal and personal, political and private. These are multimedia texts with images, diagrams, videos, and even screenshots. Where Don’t Let me be Lonely focuses on the experience of American loneliness in the U.S., Citizen is focused solely on race. Chapter Two focuses on how Rankine engages the reader’s prejudices through her use of the voice. 



Chapter Three: Dolar’s Object Voice in the Imagery of Taggart and Rankine

In the third chapter, we have the merging of the two poets, but we also find that the rhetorical, musical, and religious wells of authority are not separated by hard lines. This chapter focuses on the similarities between the beliefs of Taggart and Rankine that demonstrate the contemporary drive towards a focus on the body as a vessel of linguistic communication between individual selves. The voice plays an important role in this chapter because bodily reception of these poets’ poems ensures the manifestation of the poetic knowledge embedded in their texts. With the help of Mladen Dolar’s A Voice and Nothing More, we will see how the voice survives in a liminal space between body and language, between self and other and how the individual poets conceptualize this relationship.