Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sara Munson Deats, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lagretta Lenker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Mooney, Ph.D.


Drama, Narrative, Poetry, Middle-aged men, American Dream


In this thesis, Kochman examines the textual references to poetry in contemporary playwright Tracy Letts's "Man from Nebraska," "August: Osage County," and "Superior Donuts" and explores how specific references function as a "poetic exchange" between the protagonists and the respective agents of change or moral touchstones in each play and how these "poetic exchanges" suggest a diminishment or elevation of the intrinsic value of art -- specifically, poetry -- as a force for personal and cultural renewal. While Letts's writing is hardly "poetic" and his structure closer to "narrative," he focuses on "the repressed" - both emotionally and socially --and the redeeming qualities of poetry. Kochman argues that Letts's dramatic works do not merely challenge the gaps, ruptures, and contradictions in the "master narratives" of Western culture, but also suggest an alternative to the traditional American "narrative" focused on the individual by advocating a "poetic perspective" centered on the community. This perspective urges a shift from a rigid, linear, individual-goal oriented principle (as depicted in "August: Osage County" toward a principle of flexibility, unity, and synthesis (as advocated in "Man from Nebraska" and "Superior Donuts").