Document Type


Date of Award



Roethke, Theodore, American poetry, 20th century, History and criticism

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Robert Kroetsch

Second Advisor

Mario A. Di Cesare

Third Advisor

Matthew Coorigan




The intent of this dissertation is to delineate how Roethke'e use of the Eden motif informs his poetry and shapes his particular world outlook. I will illustrate how Roethke's growing conviction that time points to eternity leads him to insist on the value of intuitive modes of knowing. He slowly adopts an Edenic imagery that operates both explicitly and implicitly. Although the conflicts in his poetry are never without their contradictions, although one finds few "solutions," one can see developing in various concrete speakers a dichotomy between man as he is --“fallen man” -- and man as he should be – “final man." The speakers do not become these abstractions. Rather the abstractions are complementary aspects of any man in time. I will show that Roethke’s poetry moves from adolescence to maturity, from frustration to a kind of mystic acceptance of the world. But early and late the poetry is an exploration of the unity and the abiding inconsistencies of life.