UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aroused by unreadable questions : Vico, Spinoza and the poetry of Lisa Robertson and Catriona Strang Stewart, Christine Anne


This thesis investigates the ways in which two contemporary language poets associated with the avant-garde Kootenay School of Writing (1983-, Vancouver, Canada), can be read through the philosophical ideas of Giambattista Vico (1688-1744) and Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), as transmitted and transformed by James Joyce (1882-1941) and Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978), among others. For Vico, poetic language is constitutive of reality and humanity; for Spinoza, the human is a productive site of democratic relation. The works discussed here, Robertson's Debbie: an epic and Strang's Low Fancy constitute previously unexpressed linguistic subjectivities in correspondence with these philosophies. Robertson's epic figure, Debbie, is a Vichian "Giant," an epic heroine, a porri star, a debutante, and a radical break with all that these appellations imply. Strang's interlinguistic translation of the mediaeval Latin songs in Carmina Burana opens language up to the possibilities of error and constitutes new democratic subjects, stressing the music and contingency of meaning. These poems are sites of performance where history and the human subject are pried from previous and often injurious representations and expressed within metaphysical frameworks that offer radical and alternate possibilities of being.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.