Date of Award
Honors College Thesis
Jonathan Barron, Ph.D.
Robert Frost’s poetry, which is famously rich in double meaning—saying one thing but meaning something else—is also concerned with pragmatism. Pragmatism implies that there is no one fundamental universal truth. I contend that Robert Frost’s poetry says that duplicity of meaning, or ulteriority, is something to be embraced. Frost wants the uncertainty of meaning to be understood by the reader as vital to life and the mind’s processes. The simple fact that so many readers search for the hidden meanings in his poetry justly proves this point. As a pragmatist, Frost was aware that the process of getting to a truth was far more important than actually finding it, and more than just standard literary concepts of irony and metaphor lay behind Frost’s ulteriority. Instead, his poetry carves a special idea of meaning out of pragmatism. He achieves this through various routes of ulteriority that stem from each reader’s individual interpretations. Frost’s ulteriority demands that the reader draw connections between the literal and the implied. When viewed through the lens of pragmatism, his poetry proves to be as interested in the literal as in the implicit meanings and topics he engages. In this thesis, then, I examine two poems, “Dust of Snow,” and “For Once, Then, Something,” both of which use ambiguous language that operates on many different levels. Also, both poems engage the reader asking that each reader discover their own meaning, rather than a hidden “true” one that the poem covers up with irony and metaphor.
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Stackhouse, Nicolette S., "Robert Frost’s Ulteriority: Saying One Thing in Terms of Another – The Inexpressible" (2016). Honors Theses. 367.