Date of Award

Fall 12-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)





Committee Chair

Jonathan Barron

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Rebecca Frank

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Monika Gehlawat

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Charles Sumner

Committee Member 4 Department



In Anglo-American Modernist poetry, place is reduced to an analogue for the cultural degradation brought forth by the disruptive experience of modernity. This demotion stands in sharp contrast to the representation of place as a center of value in the poetry of Robert Frost, Philip Larkin, and Seamus Heaney. In this dissertation, I shall explain this value in terms of its connection to a particular cultural substance which Frost, Larkin, and Heaney deem foundational for their non-ideological terms of belonging to place. Frost embraces New England vernacularism first as the basis for his egalitarianism and second as the core substance for his democratic poetics. Larkin evades the nationalist rhetoric of Englishness in the postwar era and attends instead to a sense of place rooted in a rural English tradition. Heaney as well dismisses radical notions of allegiance to place and promotes through his localism a universal message of inclusiveness and tolerance. Frost’s New England Derry, Larkin’s Hull, and Heaney’s Derry are shaped by the political/cultural ruptures and transitions of the twentieth-century. Instead of reducing these three American, English, and Irish places to symbols of modern decline and fragmentation, Frost, Larkin, and Heaney, I argue, represent them as loci of substantial experience and of enduring vernacular, rural, and local virtues.