Janice Carrell

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

William McMahon

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Elder Olson has said that at the Biblical Tower of Babel the people did not begin to talk nonsense but only what seemed like nonsense. This paper concerns an intellectual tower where important debates are held, but unfortunately the language is not a universal one; therefor, because all too often terms have evolved without adequate definition, disagreement occurs where reconciliation appears impossible.

The very title of this thesis could be misleading to the reader if he considers debate in its formal sense. What is here intended is the controversy in the efforts of respected scholars to understand and establish the nature of poetry, and for me it is also a personal debate as I follow their assumptions in order to make some judgments in the concluding chapter about their successes and limitations. The informality of the structure of the debate does not diminish the seriousness of its dialectic. To the contrary, the debate is very serious not only to those involved but to any person who concerns himself with the state of the literary arts in the modern world.

The debate is among critics representing certain generally defined schools of criticism; however they are not primarily spokesman for a school: they are among the mainstays. Each represents high scholarship, and each is deserving of praise solely as an isolated critic – or a critic without a collective classification. At the same time they each acknowledge themselves to be members of their respective schools of criticism.

The debate is not constructed on the basis of two teams, negative and affirmative, with two members for each side. Instead there will be three positions presented by four critics. The essence of the debate is their scholarly struggle to bring to the poetic arts the most responsible and valuable critical approach and their sincere disagreement among themselves as to what the nature of poetry is and how the critic should deal with its subject matter.


Literature in English, North America