Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level





M. Keith Booker

Committee Member

Sean Dempsey

Second Committee Member

Sidney Burris


Language, literature and linguistics, Philosophy, religion and theology, Aesthetics, gerard manley Hopkins, Ontology, Phenomenology, Poetry


“What the Fuck is This?” examines the intersection of phenomenology and poetry arguing for an aesthetic nature of Being and focuses on how we know or experience the world instead of Cartesian absolutes. This subjective knowledge does not compete against objective knowledge but simply recognizes the use that poetic language has for communicating the subjective knowledge from experience of being as it unfolds for us. The major movements of the thesis focus on aesthetic objects, aesthetic intersubjectivity, and the aesthetic self. These are labeled “aesthetic” because a phenomenological methodology reveals a dialectic between that which is unfolding and that which is understanding such that the phenomenon is constructed as a unified and individual being. This construction is not a problem but is simply that which we have access to since we do not have immediate and absolute knowledge of a thing in itself as that would be a unification with said thing. Though this knowledge is not absolute, it is constructed from the unfolding of the thing itself and is therefore partial knowledge that builds to a more complete knowledge of the phenomenon. Whether the thing or being that is unfolding can be considered as an object, a subject, or even consciousness of a self, the aesthetic nature of being allows us to accept construction of being as an inevitable partial truth reflective of the way we exist in the world. This reality is further explained with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry, notes, and letters as they shed light on the ability of poetry and language in general to communicate experiences and the partial truths of being that stem from them.