Networks of Foam Becoming through Relation in Marianne Moore's Shoreline Poems

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Marianne Moore in her poetry collection Observations adopts a speaker who evades a clear subjectivity and positionality. Poems set at the intertidal zone, including “An Egyptian Pulled Glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish,” “Like a Bulrush,” “The Fish,” and “A Grave,” feature a speaker who embraces a decentered way of being as she moves fluidly – sometimes jarringly – with amphibious, entangled, and elusive creatures. Flat, yet colorful and intricate, the objects in Marianne Moore’s poems function more as nonhuman actors that architect the speaker’s imaginative spaces as much as the speaker creates a world for the readers. As a term like nonhuman actors suggests, her poetics seem to invite the lenses of Actor-Network Theory and Relationality. The former of the two theories lends itself to popular use in a wide range of fields from architecture to zoology; however, the theory is still nascent in literary studies. At stake then in this paper is arguing for the place of ANT in the poetry field alongside a new comparative humanities, modeled by Lisa Lowe and Kris Manjapra, which seeks approaches to knowledge that refuse singularity and embrace the complex relations of animals, objects, and people that shape and reshape meanings of “human” (Lowe and Manjapra 1). This paper seeks to show how Moore’s shoreline work evidences the possibilities for these alternatives.




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