English, Department of


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Grace Bauer. Lincoln, Nebraska: January, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Joshua Ware


Imaginary You is a multi-genre collection subdivided into three sections: “Impossible Motels,” “Imaginary Portraits,” and “Writing through Nightwood.” One of the manuscript’s main concerns is the exploration of an in-between space formed by the conflation of real and imagined experience. More specifically, the writing puts pressure on Wallace Stevens’ aphorisms, as stated in his Adagia, that “In poetry at least the imagination must not detach itself from reality,” and “The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.” Similarly, Imaginary You seeks to integrate a classical theory of lyric address into its fabric by abjuring the hermetic, solipsistic, and meditative voice fostered during the twentieth-century by poet-critics (such as T.S. Eliot) and championed within contemporary lyric studies. To this extent, the book is, as R.W. Johnson writes in his monograph The Idea of Lyric, a collection of “I-You poem[s], in which the poet addresses or pretends to address his thoughts and feelings to another person”; likewise, the speaker of these poems re-creates “universal emotions in a specific context, a compressed, stylized story,” all the while “'sharing...these emotions” with an audience. Moreover, these lyric poems divide their “emphasis among speaker, discourse, and hearer,” so much so that the speaker becomes subservient to the other elements in that he forms his identity by carefully considering both discourse and hearer.