Arts and Humanities
Dr. William Fogarty
Faculty Mentor Primary Department
Department of English
Year of Presentation
Project Abstract, Summary, or Creative Statement
Allen Ginsberg is one of the most well-known poets of the twentieth century. The poem he is famous for is “Howl.” This is partly because of a sensationalized obscenity trial sparked by the poem but also because the poem marks a major contribution to American literature: it recalibrated Whitman’s free-verse lines for the mid-twentieth-century with its own transcendent vision. However, it is Ginsberg’s “Kaddish,” published five years after “Howl,” that represents his highest literary achievement. “Kaddish” is the culmination of a poetics that defines the American aesthetic sensibility after modernism: its candor regarding familial events rejects modernism’s impersonality; its social commentary refuses to divide the personal and the political; its adaption of the rhythm of the Jewish formal burial prayer underlays modern experience with religious tones, and its conceptions of death and afterlife derive from Eastern rather than Western spiritual ideas. I intend to illustrate, with accompanying textual references and pertinent images, these four components and to show visually how they operate in the poem. For example, my poster will juxtapose sections of the traditional Kaddish and Ginsberg’s poem to depict their similarities and differences. Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” is the definitive American mid-century poem: brutally confessional, unabashedly political, and profoundly spiritual.
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Ginsberg, Literature, Spirituality
Allen Ginsberg's "Kaddish": A Definitive Mid-Twentieth Century Poem.