Li-Young Lee: A Post-Modern Poet Travels Back to Transcendentalism
Duncan, Paul R.
This paper attempts to prove that Li-Young Lee is best described as a post-modern Transcendentalist. The ideas presented in his poetry would rest comfortably beside Emerson and Thoreau, albeit with a more Eastern favor. His lyric poetry is grounded in the tensions of American lyric poetry between expressing the lofty optimism of the Transcendental and the difficult alienation of living in a Calvinist culture. First, the paper investigates whether the ideas embedded in his poetry can comfortably fit within the broad understanding of Transcendentalism crafted by Ashton Nichols. Then, the paper determines whether Lee's works display the same tensions are other Transcendentalists working in the lyric form by using Elisa New's framework from her book, The Regenerative Lyric. Finally, using Harold Bloom's critical analysis from The Anxiety of Influence, the paper determines how Lee's return to the Transcendentalists influence his aesthetic choices by comparing his works to one of his influences, Emily Dickinson. She is an appropriate choice for comparison since she was a poet whose ideas represented a departure from the Transcendentalists. A comparison of these two poets would heighten the differences between them, since the two were headed in opposite directions in artistic and philosophical terms. Using Bloom's framework, Lee attempts to complete Dickinson's ideas by bringing her back to a more traditional understanding of the transcendent. He tries to redirect Dickinson's notions of the transcendental self by restoring it to a more traditional, if more Eastern, approach. Lee also attempts to complete Dickinson's existentialism by endowing his poetry with an affirming attitude. In some respects, Lee manages to create more accessible, sentimental poetry that conveys a transcendental reality that is affirming in its messages. In other respects, Lee's poetry falls short of Emily Dickinson's powerful, fearless inquiry.
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.