Department or Program



This thesis centers on a critical analysis of the works of Adrienne Rich, specifically the essay “When We Dead Awaken,” poem “From an Old House in America,” and collection of poems The Dream of a Common Language. Crucial to the discussion of these works is an examination of the poetic form itself, how poetry behaves as a vessel for communicating human experience, and how this may function as a mechanism to generate social change. I will assert Rich’s conformity to this usage of poetry through a discussion of her poetic transformations and engagement with the literary traditions of her time. Historicizing Rich in this way will allow us to consider what her contributions meant in that moment, and what they mean to us now. The essential purpose of doing so is to explore how Rich’s theorizing in her works may inform and influence our understanding of contemporary conceptions of normative personhood. What did Rich’s works accomplish and how are these accomplishments relevant today? How do the shortcomings of her theorizing influence our discussions of the subject matter she engages with?

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Pickens, Theri

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.