With some features of an intellectual biography, this book offers a radical re-examination of Robert Lowell’s entire oeuvre. The author finds in it a sustained, if erratic, effort to move beyond the high-modernist paradigm. The book begins by exploring the aesthetic and ethical dilemmas the poet was confronted with at the start of his career, dilemmas which were only temporarily resolved in the deceptive mode of confessionalism. Incorporating some material from the poet’s unpublished manuscripts, the author argues that the late Lowell seeks a poetic mode that would be both more public and more empathic. Inspired by – among others – Hannah Arendt, the poet eventually refutes not just the high-modernist mode of the 1940s but also the crypto-modernist confessionalism of the 1960s. The book follows Lowell in his various post-modernist explorations to show finally that Martin Heidegger can be usefully employed to read the last volumes. Traces of Heideggerian critique of metaphysics and his literary hermeneutics found in
The Dolphin and
Day by Day illustrate the poet’s unfulfilled ambition to develop an entirely new poetics.