Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

David Jones

Committee Members

Jesse Graves, Scott Honeycutt


This survey follows the development of working-class poetry from Whitman to contemporary poets. It begins by considering how the need for working-class poetry emerged. Whitman’s “Song of Myself” sought to democratize poetry both my challenging previous poetic formal conventions and broadening the scope of included subjects. Williams also challenged formal expectations, but both were limited by their historical and socioeconomic position. To combat this, I include the twentieth-century poets Ignatow and Levine who began in the working class so they could speak truths that had not been published before. Ignatow includes the phrase “dream of completion” which encapsulates various feelings of the working class. This dream could include moments of temporary leisure, but also feeling completed by societal acceptance or understanding. Finally, I include the contemporary poets Laux, Addonizio, and Espada. They complicate the “dream of completion” narrative with issues surrounding gender and race, and do not seek to find resolution.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.