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Master Thesis

The transition from poetic text to visual art: writing nature and calligraphy in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s, Lew Welch’s and Philip Whalen’s work

Abstract : The aim of this Masters dissertation is to explore the transition from poetic text to visual work of art. This is done through a joint study of nature and calligraphy in the work of Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lew Welch and Philip Whalen. “What can calligraphy add to poetry?” and “Why and how did Beat poets make calligraphy instrumental in connecting to nature?” are two questions the present study tries to answer. This dissertation is divided into three chapters. The first one, “Reinvesting nature through handwritten poetry” explains how nature is dealt with in the poems under consideration and how, through calligraphy (its organic quality), specific lay-outs and the language they use, Welch, Whalen and Ferlinghetti convey – in a material way – people’s inherent connection to nature. The second chapter goes on to explore the “Merging of Eastern and Western cultures” that appears in the three Beat poets’ work. Welch, Whalen and Ferlinghetti were heavily inspired by Eastern culture, its relation to nature and the place occupied in it by calligraphy, a medium which blends drawing and writing. Nature and spirituality are themes found in all the poems close-read in this study. Western and Eastern perspectives in regards to reconnection to nature are addressed through a parallel drawn between American Haiku and traditional Japanese Haiku. The third chapter, “From the readable to the visual” looks into the link between Zen Buddhism and calligraphy, since the latter is influenced by the former. It is possible to interpret and explore meditation as an artistic performance, and poetry as an experience beyond words on paper. They both invite the reader to become involved in the artistic process and to engage their bodies and minds in a reconnection to the world surrounding them, the natural world in particular. The words become a visual work of art through the art of calligraphy. Overall, the purpose of this Masters dissertation is to highlight the depth of meaning that can be added to a poem by writing and publishing it in calligraphed form. Through the study of Welch’s, Whalen’s and Ferlinghetti’s poems, it is suggested that besides adding a visual dimension to poetry, calligraphy materializes and deepens the connection to nature thanks to the creative process it entails. Beat poets found in the traditional roots of calligraphy a thought-worthy source of inspiration to create striking and rather unique poetry.
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Master Thesis
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Submitted on : Monday, January 25, 2021 - 11:48:56 AM
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  • HAL Id : dumas-03120059, version 1



Arthur Ribière. The transition from poetic text to visual art: writing nature and calligraphy in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s, Lew Welch’s and Philip Whalen’s work. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2019. ⟨dumas-03120059⟩



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