Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Robert A. Brinkley

Second Committee Member

Margaret A. Lukens

Third Committee Member

Jennifer Moxley


In recent history, literary criticism attempted to maintain absolute standards by which the quality of literature was to be judged. The literary community's partial submission to attacks on this position has made it possible for its members to recognize that these rigid standards can never be universally accepted. We argue that they must therefore accept, as legitimate modes of critique, both Seamus Heaney's claim that it is the duty of poetry to redress wrongs of whatever type and his unspoken claim that this redress is done by poetry's working for opposing realities. The work for these often contradictory realities, says Heaney, is done from between them by bringing them together through the generation of small bits of mutual understanding. Though they almost never speak of the subject directly, poets' and philosophers' agreement with Heaney is so broad as to be practically universal. Martin Heidegger sees a reality between a thing and the saying of that thing. He sees presencing as the reconciling now between the past and the future. Hegel sees a mediation between a being and a thing perceived by that being. Irigaray speaks more of the connective pathways between things and ideas than of the things or ideas so connected. Derrida is more interested in difference than in the realities between which difference exists. It seems apparent that thinkers as different as Aristotle and John Cage view "Betweeness" as a unique reality—one we should care about. As our language builds opportunities for communication within the unique realm of "betweenness," poets seize them. Poets as different as Sappho and Lyn Hejinian, Sir Phillip Sidney and Laura Riding, Carolyn Forche and Leigh Hunt, or Allen Grossman and Charles Baudelaire all believe in and use this special realm of betweenness to make right by bringing an element of mutual understanding to dissimilar modes of existence.