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Poetic experience: Generative criticism as a new aspect of literary analysis

Rajmund Horvath, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In this dissertation I have made an attempt to follow up on Peter Baker's idea of Generative Criticism. Generative Criticism, as Baker proposes in Modern Poetic Practice (1986), aims at a deeper understanding of poetry by incorporating the poet's point of view in literary analysis.^ I have chosen Janos Pilinszky's work for my investigations into the issue. Pilinszky is one of the most distinguished Hungarian poets of the twentieth century, and certainly one of the most original ones even worldwide. He seemed an ideal subject for my study, because he builds a poetic world out of the lowest number of elements possible, while maintaining an atmospheric presence that poets using a lot more tools have not achieved. Studying such limited material one can reach consistency, accuracy, and access the whole of his poetry more easily than by trying to make sense of more complex texts.^ At first, I had to clarify my point of view, which I did by introducing a heuristic environment with an appropriate hermeneutics and epistemology. I coordinated my initial tenets in relation to contemporary phenomenology (Husserl), dialectics (Hegel, Aristotle), semiotics (Kristeva), and Rhetorical Criticism (Baker) in Chapter One and Sections 1-3 and in Chapter Two. I probed the workings of the system set up by applying it deductively to the poet's creative act as well as to the resulting poems. I used inductive argument when trying to coordinate the poet's point of view from material written on, or by the poet himself. Ideally, the resulting conclusions materialized as the synthesis of the combination of induction and deduction (Sections 3-7 of Chapter Two, the whole Chapter Three, and Sections 1-4 of Chapter Four). The synthesis I made by proving that imitation of the poet is possible by employing the modules of his experience and his poetry (Section 5 and 6 in Chapter Five). Finally, after placing Generative Criticism, as I understand it, in the context of rhetoric (Aristotle, Lanham), former attempts (Baker), and as a possible part of eclectic approaches (Rosenthal), I endeavored to identify some modern poetic tools from a Generative point of view (Chapter Six).^ In conclusion I found that the analysis of my limited material may have led to the formulation of rules and categories that can apply to modern poets at a much larger scale. ^

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Slavic literature

Recommended Citation

Horvath, Rajmund, "Poetic experience: Generative criticism as a new aspect of literary analysis" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9721460.