Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Dr Joshua Schuster


Using an approach rooted in deconstructive close-reading and branching into pataphysics, this thesis studies, with and through the poetry of American modernist E. E. Cummings, ethical cultivations of aesthetics. First, a lover-beloved paradigm is unearthed in Cummings’s poetry, where love, a response to flaws, is the creative actualization of the world, others, and selves. Second, this love is extended (back) into poetry, using Cummings’s figures of birds—his “ornithopoeia,” the double movement of figuring the flesh and enfleshing the figure. Third, the ethico-aesthetic growth of the poet-reader, lover-beloved, and bird-figure is traced to a Taoist responsivity and eecological responsibility, using Cummings’s metaphor of the blossoming flower, or petalody. Cummings’s aversion to the nascent New Criticism allows this thesis to forage for an alternative to New Criticism’s sedentary offspring: namely, deconstruction and ubiquitous contemporary post-structuralist theory. It hybridizes Cummings’s poetry with ecocriticism, ancient and contemporary philosophy of love, ethics and theology, and biology. It holds binaries in suspension through Taoism and bends metaphysics back to physics through pataphysics, a science of exceptions and a poetics of vital matter. It explicates his entire oeuvre from poetry to personal correspondences, its inspirations and aspirations, its inventions and conventions, and its relevance on a still-modernist earth in the oily shadow of ecocatastrophe.