Robert Frost's Political Body

December 2014
21 black and white illustrations
346 pages
9x6 in
Studies in American Literature and Culture
ISBN: 9781571135834
Format: Hardback
Camden House

Robert Frost's Political Body

Grzegorz Kosc

A provocative new study that identifies a deep structure -- that of the political body -- in Frost's poetry.

In Robert Frost's poetry lives the figure of an authoritative public body: a physical, human body that personifies classical liberalism. A deep structure, it manifests itself in his images, the characterization of his speakers, their tones of voice, and -- most crucially -- in his sense of poetry's appropriate scope. To glimpse this political body, Grzegorz Kosc interrogates the poet's views on a number of subjects never explored by Frost criticism: Maya monumental art; Shelley's bodies of sensibility and martyrdom; the bodies of US presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft; the association of radical liberalism with bodily deformation; the ulteriority of physical behavior; the popularity of statuettes that supplanted traditional, monumental sculptures of political leaders. For Frost, all these yielded important clues to the writing of a good poem, which had to have the features of a well-shaped, self-disciplined, and stoic body. The final chapter explores the images of Frost's own body used for the frontispieces of the reprint editions of his poetry, images that are the symbols of Frost's aesthetics. Hence the book's title, which not only points to the central structure of Frost's poetry but also suggests that the poet envisioned his own portrait as illustrating the body of political power underlying his aesthetics.

Grzegorz Kosc is Assistant Professor at the University of Lodz and the University of Warsaw, Poland. He is former President of the Robert Frost Society.

Table of Contents

Frost's Experiences and the Intellectual Traditions that Influenced Him
The Undoing of the Maya and Frost's Chafed Boulders
From Shelley's Revolutionary Body to Corporeal Power in Keats
Frost's Poetic Form and the Vicissitudes of the Executive Body
Frost's Browneian Critique of Randolph Bourne and the Monstrosity of Left Liberalism
The Inscrutability of the Body as a Principle of Frost's Irony
From Absolutist Colossi to Republican Figurines
The Symbol of the Political Body: Frost's Portraits in North of Boston and Mountain Interval
Archival Sources


"Greg Kosc has written a book like no other on Frost. Highly original, and from a position no one could have anticipated, comes this startling, fresh example of what I can only call a somatic reading of Robert Frost and the body politic (and impolitic). Everyone knows about the poet and JFK. But who knew Frost assumed his varied postures in wary response to the sheer physical presence of Teddy Roosevelt, the immoderate girth of William Howard Taft, or the super-cool standing of Calvin Coolidge? -- to name only three candidates. Robert Frost's Political Body also offers the fullest treatment ever to come of the significance for Frost of the famous bust Aroldo du Chêne did of the poet -- and of other representations of his physique. Among the many pleasures here is the most detailed account we have of the importance, for Frost, of Milton's Comus. Robert Frost's Political Body is also the first major study of the poet to draw on the highly unusual notebooks he kept. Reader, you come, too; surprises await."
--Mark Richardson, author of The Ordeal of Robert Frost and coeditor of The Letters of Robert Frost

"This meticulously researched and quite fascinating book shows Frost in the full light of his times, as it makes a powerful and persuasive case for the influence of the poet's intellectual life and material culture on his republican poetics."
--Tyler Hoffman, Rutgers University, author of Robert Frost and the Politics of Poetry One has to marvel at the quality of mind capable of producing a book such as this. It is a blockbusting study of Robert Frost's imagination, and it must have entailed a huge amount of work and thought. . . . [P]art of the power of Kosc's study is that it stimulates enquiry as much as it supplies answers. JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES [Andrew Hodgson]

[W]onderfully dizzying . . . . Kosc's openness to pursue the possible leaps in Frost's thinking . . . is the very thing that makes this book such a refreshing and significant addition to the scholarly work done on Frost over the last 25 years. . . . The great success of Kosc's book, apart from the intriguing and surprisingly convincing connections between Frost and often unrecognized sources and influences, is the way it will cause us to read the body in(to) virtually all of Frost's poems . . . . [A] terrific ride. THE ROBERT FROST REVIEW [Timothy O'Brien]

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