Robert Lowell’s Culturally Coded Lexis
AbstractIn this paper, I will examine how a vital element of Robert Lowell’s descriptive and narrative structures, i.e., the lexis, promise to unfold the “layers” of the culture that served as context for Life Studies. This involves exploring both the denotations and connotations of his culturally encoded lexis, that is, the external meanings of certain words and phrases before they “enter” the poem and the internal meanings they acquire after entering the poem. This process of “verbal osmosis”, when words absorb meaning from these different contexts, is, what I believe, critic and linguist Winifred Nowottny describes as “give and take between those patterns” (Fowler, 2009: 31). My analysis will focus on the sociolinguistic patina accrued on certain units of Lowell’s poetic lexis, such as names of historical people, events and concepts belonging to American and European spiritual cultures and traditions, as well as brand names from popular material culture of the first half of the twentieth century. The analysis will also dwell on the use of idioms, catch phrases and other verbal clichés which reflect the culture that generated them. They function as verbal “ready-mades” that additionally reinforce Lowell’s well-known anecdotal, colloquial and informal poetic language. The choice of these particular lexical items is significant as they reflect the categorization of the world and the experience of the poetic voice or the “language user” in broader linguistic terms. At the same time, the categorization of the experience reflects the ideational position, the worldview of the language user. In the context of his poetics of immanence and experience, this culturally coded poetic diction is analyzed as another authentic and documented presentation of immanent narrator’s “lived experience”.
 R. Fowler, Linguistic Criticism, 2nd ed. Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 2009.
 M. Perloff, “The Return of Robert Lowell”. Rev. of Robert Lowell:Collected Poems, eds. Frank Bidartand David Gewanter. 2 Nov. 2010.[Online]. Available: http://epc.buffalo.edu /authors/perloff /articles/ lowell/.
 F. Bidart, and D.Gewanter, eds., Robert Lowell: Collected Poems. New York, USA: Farrar,Straus and Giroux, 2003.
 M. Perloff, The Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media. Chicago, USA: University of ChicagoPress, 1991.
 L. Kramer, “Freud and the Skunks: Genre and Language
In Life Studies” in Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry, Eds. Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese, Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 1986.
 D. Chandler, Semiotics for Beginners.1994 [WWW document]. 18 August 2012. [Online]. Available: http://users.aber.ac.uk/ dgc/Documents/S4B/sem08.html/.
 R. Lowell, Life Studies and For the Union Dead, New York, USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1964.
 P. Simpson, Stylistics: A Resources Book for Students, London, England: Routledge, 2004.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
Култура/Culture by MI-AN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.