Elizabeth Bishop: Questions of Mastery

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9780674246898: Elizabeth Bishop: Questions of Mastery
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A profoundly visual poet, Elizabeth Bishop has a prismatic way of seeing. In this companion to the poetry, Bonnie Costello gives a sense of Bishop and her ways of seeing and writing. Drawing on Bishop's unpublished writings - her journals, letters, and manuscripts - to reinforce her interpretations of the poems, Costello demonstrates that Bishop's work portrays both the desire for personal and artistic mastery and the dangers and illusions to which such desire is prone. Costello focuses particularly on Bishop's optical strategies and the images she employs to manipulate the normative, revealing much about the poet's attitudes toward space, time, art, and memory. She shows how Bishop's use of multiple and unusual perspectives was influenced by surrealist and symbolist art (partilcularly the work of de Chirico, Klee, and Ernst); how she turns away from devotional and Modernist attitudes toward mutability in an effort to "refect nature's own violation of static form"; and the extent to which Bishop "views memory as a thread of life, a dynamic principle of limited continuity in a world of discontinuities". This book is a critique of Bishop's vision and poetics. Costello's readings of Bishop's work, together with her re-evaluation of Bishop's visual qualities, add a new dimension while providing a guide for scholars, students and general readers.

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About the Author:

Bonnie Costello, Professor of English at Boston University, is the general editor of The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore.

Review:

Essential reading for anyone interested in Elizabeth Bishop's life and art . . . Bishop's struggle as an heir to modernism comes alive in Costello's precise prose. (Women's Review of Books)

Elizabeth Bishop: Questions of Mastery explores the connection between the poet's descriptive passion arid her ecphrastic imagination. Costello is interested in ... stratagems of design to which Bishop resorts in a desire for mastery over world and self ... The connections Costello makes between modern art and modern poetry are valuable, imaginative, and licit.
--Judith Farr, Belles Lettres

Costello traces Bishop's progress toward her quite clear rejection of 'the magisterial claims of art' in a series of dazzlingly close readings of the poems, including a handful that have rarely been discussed . . . I have been reading Bishop for ten years. and it seems to me that until l read Costello's explications of 'Over 2000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance, ''Roosters' and 'Pink Dog,' I had not read them at all.
--Brett Miller, Harvard Review

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