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The Degenerate MuseAmerican Nature, Modernist Poetry, and the Problem of Cultural Hygiene$
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Robin G. Schulze

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199920327

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199920327.001.0001

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. Marianne Moore, Degeneration, and Domestication

. Marianne Moore, Degeneration, and Domestication

(p.161) 4. Marianne Moore, Degeneration, and Domestication
The Degenerate Muse

Robin G. Schulze

Oxford University Press

As her review of Marianne Moore’s volume, Poetry, suggests, Harriet Monroe disliked Marianne Moore’s verse because she thought it was the product of a degenerate shut-in who knew nothing of nature. Yet, Moore’s book contains a number of poems on plant and animal subjects that express her own desire to turn to American nature in order to maintain the vigor of American culture. The poems that Monroe saw as evidence of Moore’s detachment from nature speak instead to her belief that American artists should draw on their genuine animal natures, the basic Darwinian instincts that will make their poems unique rather than derivative and degenerate copies of European verses. Moore’s early verses, particularly her poems that picture creatures in gardens, such as “Roses Only,” “Radical,” and “My Apish Cousins,” rail against the hyper-civilized sameness that such domestic and domesticated settings impose. Moore, like Monroe and Pound, headed back to nature to remake American poetry. For Moore, the power of American art lay in its basic biological diversity. Moore’s move back to nature was not a nostalgic retreat from the pressures of modernity, but a means of facing the domesticating, degenerative forces that would rob creatures of their defining instinctual differences.

Keywords:   marianne Moore, poetry, degeneration, modernism, american, darwin, instinct, domestication, nature

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