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The hypnotic literary genre: Poetry, trance, and hypnotext

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: William G Kraemer
Abstract:
This dissertation attempts to take a new direction in literary theory and criticism. In it, I examine spell-weaving or hypnotic poetry to see if it can be established as a genre. I believe that some poetry endures and is re-read over generations because it is hypnotic. I look at previous discussions of hypnotic poetry by literary theorists, critics and authors who directly discuss or who seem to intuitively sense poetry that is hypnotic. Part of this dissertation discusses well-known poems that have lasted for generations and interacts them with hypnotism texts used therapeutically by professional hypnotists. There is a consideration and discussion of contemporary neuroscience, how it informs the scientific understanding of hypnotic trance, and how such understandings argue for the cultural value of hypnotic trance. There is no attempt in this dissertation to medicalize hypnotic poetry or to turn it into some kind of therapy. Finally, this dissertation shows what a hypnotic theory-based approach could offer literary theory and criticism.

TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1 TWO DISCUSSION OF CURRENT CULTURAL AND LITERARY ISSUES 51 THREE INTERACTION OF CANONICAL POETRY AND HYPNOTISM TEXTS 93 FOUR COMPOSITION RITUAL AND HYPNOTIC TRANCE 160 FIVE IMPLICATIONS FOR LITERARY THEORY AND CRITICISM 203 WORKS CITED 212 APPENDIX HYPNOTISM THERAPY TEXT AND SELECTED POEMS 223 v

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION This dissertation attempts something that is unique and that has not been done by previous investigators, namely, to define an hypnotic literary genre, a genre in which the poet uses the same language techniques as hypnotists use, and uses them consistently enough in poetry to induce a light hypnotic trance in the reader or the audience. This investigator ventures the opinion that the reason some poetry is read and re-read across generations is because it is hypnotic and thus encodes itself in the memory of the reader or audience as a pleasing experience. In attempting to define said genre, this study comments upon and refers back to the seminal investigation of Edward D. Snyder and his work Hypnotic Poetry. Written in 1930, Snyder's investigation understandably lacked the benefit of the past eighty years of neuroscientific investigation and thus could not possibly have incorporated now contemporary understanding of trance states and how they are induced other than by hypnotists. While referring to Snyder from time to time, this investigation adds to Snyder new insights in such a way as to depart from it entirely and to begin to explore hypnotic poetry anew with an entirely new psychological system. Hypnotism theory, specifically the hypnotism theory of Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi, is the grounding ideology of this investigation. Because Erickson was the most important 20th century hypnotism theorist, his Strategic Therapy remains the most articulated and scientifically validated presentation of hypnotism theory. Erickson's hypnotism theory does not speak of the mind in 1

functionalist terms such as the Id and the Superego, but rather responds rhetorically to the thoughts, emotions, behavior and words of the client rhetorically, as though each of these were meant to persuade. The role of the hypnotist is to persuade the client to try other, presumably better, behaviors. Thus, Ericksonian theory addresses the client's words with the hypnotist's words, analogously to how the literary theorist and critic must address the words of poems with the hypnotist's words seeking to describe rather than explain away any inferred mental processes in either. Although hypnotism was the first Western therapeutic system and preceded psychoanalysis, this study does not ignore psychoanalytic theory. Insights and terminology from the existential— phenomenological psychoanalysis of Rollo May, as well as the analytical psychology of Carl Gustov Jung, and the Intuitionist / Vitalist philosophy of Henri Bergson comprise the theoretical approach, modified here to include and utilized to read and explicate poetry in unprecedented ways. If hypnotic literary criticism and theory were applied to that section of Eliot's Four Quartets, titled "East Coker," it may look like what follows below. In contemporary literary culture words are seen as tools and poems as a way of getting a specific job done. As a result of this pragmatic view of poetry, ratio and intellectus have gradually been divided against each other (Burke as ctd. in Magee, Emancipating 17). Part of the reason for the division is that there is no place outside the poet where he or she can go for a balancing experience or for a conflation of the two. If the job of the poet is to wield tools toward making a poem that moves people toward a specific end or response, then poets move 2

in an air-tight world that recursively feeds back on to itself with no way to go outside of its own closed and claustrophobic system. On top of this impasse is another impasse, as outlined by Birkerts above, which centers on the electronic mediation of culture and the overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. With all of the dissident noise and subjective interference, the poet is separated from any sense of the unconscious mind and the words that originate there, plus, he or she remains cut off from the external inflow of thoughts and words. It is the hope of this investigator that an appreciation for the spell-weaving poem, the aesthetic trance, and the ontological trance will show that there is a way for poets to bypass the above interference and speak indirectly but decisively to poets, the reader, and the audience about the larger and deeper concerns of poets and poetry. The poet can accomplish this ennobling end with confidence because the trance is the vehicle that puts him or her in touch with own inner poetic impulses and processes. When the early 20th century French philosopher Henri Bergson said that the processes of art involve, in weakened form, a refined and spiritualized version of hypnotic processes, his statement caused a stir that quickly faded, as have various similar statements before and since (Time and Free Will 14). Bergson said that art and hypnotism share two aims. Both seek to put to sleep the active, resistant powers of the personality and to bring it to a perfectly responsive state so that it realizes the idea suggested to it while putting it in sympathy with the emotion which the work of art expresses (16). Bergson added 3

that hypnotism's two shared aims correspond in the audience's personality less to variations in degree than to differences in state (17). The appealing idea—that hypnotism and art share aims and that hypnotism sometimes plays a role in art—seems to gain and lose the attention of not just philosophy, but also of literary theory. In the early decades of the last century, American literary theorists examined the hypnotic poem in English and American poetry. In the mid-20th century, Etienne Gilson, French critic and philosopher, expressed part of Bergson's theme of the hypnotic and art when he mentioned poetry and charm. That Gilson touches upon what Bergson was driving at is worth mentioning; "poetry is made to charm," says Gilson (Forms and Substances in the Arts 232). In what he called "poetic being," Gilson says that word occupies the central place, where it reverberates in consciousness and creates innumerable and unforeseeable connections between images and notions that logic would not make (233). Gilson cites a point, which Stephen Mallarme said about poetry that I hope to return to later and apply to hypnotic poetry and trance. I make the case that, as poetry occurs in the white of the pages that lies between the words as well as the lines, trance is an event occurring between sound and sense. If poetry occurs between the words and the lines on the page, then surely hypnotic poetry and trance must happen somewhere between sound and sense. When I attempt later to make this case, I will draw from contemporary hypnotism theory, from which literary theorist Edward Snyder could not have drawn. When 4

writing Hypnotic Poetry in 1930, Snyder1 based his criticism on then current hypnotism theory. Though he offers a cogent study of the hypnotic poem, his investigation does not benefit from the rigorous, experimental research that was completed by psychologists after his time. Snyder's Hypnotic Poetry defined the hypnotic poem in terms that were state of the art in his time. Referring alternately to the "spell-weaving" poem or the hypnotic poem, Snyder says that the hypnotic poem's obvious power to rouse the emotions "suggests a concealed artistry" worthy of literary criticism's greatest interest (2). He lists several literary devices that may induce a hypnotic effect, one of which includes a perfect pattern of sound and stress, particularly when these are accompanied by rhythm that features heavy vocal stresses falling at half-second intervals (40). Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" is an example of such rhythm and stress. Consider the line, "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan . . . ." Snyder says that in this opening line, and in all the other lines of the poem, the time for the heavy syllabic beats is nearly half a second. The time is barely over twelve twenty-fifths of a second for the anapestic and dactylic rhythms, a time which almost perfectly parallels the rhythmic stimulus used by hypnotists. The timing and the heavy stresses draw the attention of the reader or the audience to the sound of the lines and away from the sense. A mix of the appropriate pattern of sound and stress is not the only literary device which induces the hypnotic state. Spell-weaving poems lack any sudden, 1 Snyder was the first literary theorist and critic to delineate a hypnotic literary genre. 5

distracting changes that would break the hypnotic spell (Snyder 41). For example, the lines "Break, break, break, / On thy cold grey stones, O sea!" have no distracting changes that would break the trance of an engrossed reader or listener. The spell-weaving poem lacks the intellectually stimulating paradox and anything else that would lead to intense mental alertness. Vagueness of imagery, which permits the reader or audience to fill in details, serves as an additional tool of the hypnotic poet. The visual imagery in such poems must be soft and shadowy enough to allow the reader to either provide the particulars or to let images remain obscure. For example, the lines "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day / the lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea" have this soft, shadowy quality. Another hypnotic poet's means of weaving spells is the use of pleasing monotony, which results in fatigue that leads to changing habitual or familiar mental states (Snyder 43). The spell-weaving poet adds what Snyder calls verbal difficulties to the spell-weaving poem's monotony, which the ordinary reader or audience cannot resolve. Monotony and verbal difficulties frustrate the reader and audience and bring on satisfying fatigue (Snyder 43). The frustration and fatigue lead the reader or audience to unconsciously stop any attempt to resolve contradictions, and as a result the reader or audience is led to turn over the resolution of the poem's inconsistencies to the poet. Snyder cites examples of such verbal difficulties from in Thomas Gray's "Elegy to a Country Churchyard." Lines such as "Let not Ambition mock their useful toil" and "Their homely joys, and destiny obscure" present the kind of verbal difficulties within the rhythm 6

stresses associated with hypnotic technique (Snyder 55). In the spell-weaving poem, fatigue combines with rhythm and obscure phrasing to soften the reader and audience. These and the other hypnotic elements produce the poet's final aesthetic effects (Snyder 45). Rhythm and repetition often function as physical stimuli that fix the attention. When they accompany a key phrase and constitute a refrain, the refrain functions also as a hypnotic suggestion that produces aesthetic effects. In Poe's "The Raven," the recurring word "nevermore" constitutes such a suggestive refrain (Snyder 46). Suggestion itself is another literary device operating in spell-weaving poetry. The spell-weaving poem delivers its suggestion to readers or an audience after the poem has intensified their suggestibility (Snyder 46). Blissfulness, hushed reverence, and supernal beauty are suggested by subtle and peculiar connotations that furnish the reader or audience with associated ideas appropriate to the poem's intended mood. Poems that are not hypnotic contain suggestion, but they contain a different kind of suggestion that frequently occupies a different position in the poem (Snyder 48). In the hypnotic poem, as in the hypnotic script, the suggestion appears after many long monotonous passages, or it comes at the end of the poem. In both hypnotic poem and script, the suggestion bears heavy conviction without providing a supporting argument. The suggestion in Alfred Lord Tennyson's spell-weaving poem "Crossing the Bar" comes, with no argumentation, at the poem's end. The speaker hopes to see his Pilot face to face, "When I have crossed the bar" (Snyder 49). 7

Parallels exist between Snyder's discussion of rhythm, suggestion and refrain and contemporary hypnotic practice. The current hypnotic practices are rhythm, confusion— also called the "confusion technique"—and refraining. According to Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi in Hypnotherapy, hypnotists alter the rhythms of their scripts so that it corresponds to the client's "natural ninety-minute biorhythm" (186). During this biorhythm, there is a natural cycle of rest, activity, fantasy, and appetite. Hypnotists pace their script, adjusting it according to the client's place in the biorhythm cycle. Erickson and Rossi corroborate Snyder's statement that the ideal pattern of sound and stresses in the spell-weaving poem is a rhythm that has the heavier vocal stresses falling at half-second intervals (84). Contemporary hypnotism theory also substantiates the role in spell-weaving poetry which Snyder gives to obscure phrasing, to the presence or lack of intellectual difficulties, and to suggestion embedded within these. In The Hypnotic Brain, Peter Brown notes that contemporary hypnotism practice uses the literary devices that Snyder describes. Hypnotists use these and other devices and place them under the umbrella term of the confusion technique (Brown 236). Like the spell-weaving poets who use obscure phrasing and dreamy images, hypnotists employ riddles, puns, paradoxical statements, and indirect suggestion. The aim of these strategies is to bring about that perspective-changing by clients which hypnotists call reframing (Brown 244). Reframing is the making of new meanings for life situations. When hypnotism clients reframe, they change their conceptual viewpoint in their relationships, 8

whether they are relationships with other people, or with things, such as tobacco or food. The client replaces old frames of reference with new frames that better fit the facts of a situation and thereby change its meaning (Brown 244). The client does all this changing by appropriating and making new meanings of the hypnotist's words (Brown 236). Brown's discussion of hypnotic scripts parallels Snyder's discussion of several devices—namely, obscure phrasing, intellectual difficulties, and suggestion embedded within them in the form of a refrain. Just as hypnotic poems make the reader or audience understand words, and possibly their lives, in new ways, hypnotic scripts use words to instigate clients to find new life-meanings. Spell-weaving poetry compels the reader or audience to re- experience words in poems or the poems themselves. Hypnotism theory calls the new experiences and perspectives gained by both clients and the reader or audience of hypnotic poetry reframing (Brown 224). In both cases, the vehicle of reframing is the presentation of words. Reframing can lead the client, the reader, or the audience to take new directions in life. As Snyder says, after lulling the reader or audience into an agreeable state of mind and fixing their attention, the hypnotic poem can give an unusually clear, direct suggestion to take this direction or that (47). In either hypnotic scripts or spell-weaving poems, properly configured words accomplish similar ends. The hypnotic poem can cast its spell whether a reader reads it or an audience hears it. Snyder notes that some critics believe that the silent reading of a hypnotic poem can induce trance. As one example of a spell-weaving poem, Snyder notes that Robert Browning's "Love Among the Ruins," when read aloud, 9

"lulls" its reader or its audience into a "perfect pattern of sound," and attention is focused "without arousing of his mental faculty" (47). The reader or audience is passively receptive to "whatever mood the poet suggests." When Edgar Allan Poe read his hypnotic poem "The Raven" in a darkened room, his audience reportedly had a new experience of the poem; they felt an unforgettable ecstatic thrill (Snyder 3). Phrases like, "midnight dreary" and "weak and weary," as well as "bleak December" and "dying ember" followed by "sorrow, sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore" contributed to weaving the spell on the audience (Snyder 70). Snyder includes Lord Byron's "The Isles of Greece," Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Break, Break, Break," and Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain," in the category of spell-weaving poetry (8). A litmus test of whether or not a poem is spell-weaving centers on whether or not the poem can maintain interruption (Snyder 3). The interruption breaks the reader or audience's experience of emotional continuity. Upon resumption, neither reader nor audience can regain the experience of emotional continuity, at least for a time. Why emotional continuity cannot be regained is easier described than explained. The impossibility of regaining broken continuity is similar to how disconnected two people feel when one tells another a joke but an interruption occurs before the delivery of the punch line. Typically, neither the teller of the joke nor the listener feels like finishing the joke after the interruption. Even if the first person resumes telling the joke, the building and releasing of the joke's tension lacks the immediacy, novelty, and effectiveness it sustained prior to the point of interruption. In my mind, the interruption of the emotional continuity of a 10

hypnotic poem mirrors the interruption of a dream. I also compare how interruption breaks the emotional continuity of a spell-weaving poem to the interruption of a dream. If noise interrupts the dream of a sleeping person, the person cannot regain the dream's continuity after falling asleep again. With further discussion and the introduction of additional concepts below, I hope to describe more completely how the interruption of a hypnotic poem brings on the disconnection of emotional experience. Can someone silently reading a spell-weaving poem become hypnotized? Snyder says that, under some circumstances, yes. The silent reader who reads "to himself" and hears each syllable of the poem's words and presumably whose muscles are making subtle, implicit movements as he or she reads can sometimes be hypnotized (Snyder 132). Snyder calls this kind of reader the silent but auditing reader. One recurring, possibly nagging, question remains: why would anyone write hypnotic poetry? One reason for the writing of such poetry might lie in some of the intrinsic processes of artistic invention (Snyder 94). By silently composing a poem and, in the process, by silently repeating lines to mentally rehearse them, a poet could self-induce a state of trance. As he or she composes the poem, the poet transposes the hypnotic words in his mind to the page and produces a hypnotic poem. In hypnotism, the droning monotony of reiterated phrases and the soothing rhythms uttered by the hypnotist which are spoken internally by the client again and again induce trance. When the poet crafts the internal speech of a poem in the mind into a poem on the page, he has a hypnotic poem, perhaps 11

coincidentally to the process of invention. Possibly by trial and error and perhaps without knowing anything about hypnotism, the poet has learned how to relax and narrow the reader's or the audience's powers of attention, thereby accomplishing the hypnotist's goal. Not every poem is a hypnotic poem. Some poems are memorable, but not for engaging their audience by hypnotic trance. Snyder identifies a contrasting kind of poem, the intellectualist poem, which is built on its intellectual continuity. The acid test of whether or not a poem is intellectualist centers on the interruption factor, as when the reader breaks from the text for commentary. If a reader reading an intellectualist poem breaks from the text for commentary, the interruption momentarily disrupts only its intellectual continuity and results in no feeling of emotional loss (4). Thus, when the reading is resumed, the audience has lost no emotional engagement. For example, the emotional response to Robert Browning's intellectualist "My Last Duchess," Snyder would agree, is not broken at all by the interruption of its reading. The poem's emotional response is assembled, incrementally, upon intellectual elements in this intellectualist poem. Similarly, because Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" builds on intellectual stimuli, the emotional response to its reading is not interrupted if the reader stops to comment on the poem or explicate difficult lines. On the other hand, the response to an interrupted hypnotic poem is similar to the reaction when a well-rendered musical composition is interrupted. The intensity of the interruption of an emotional experience of an audience hearing Alan Seeger's "I 12

Have a Rendezvous with Death" or Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain" would certainly be broken if the reading were interrupted for any reason. Snyder defines a semi-hypnotic poem as a poem which occasionally works like a hypnotic poem, yet at other times works by patently intellectualist means (64). The semi-hypnotic poem, which I refer to as the occasionally hypnotic poem, contains one or more lines employing a markedly hypnotic technique. At other moments in the poem, another quality, such as narrative interest, prevents the poem from being completely hypnotic. The occasionally hypnotic poem usually includes much food for thought. It often has striking contrasts and clear imagery, but it demands conscious study for its appreciation (Snyder 64). To the extent that occasionally hypnotic poems require scrutiny, they are typically intellectualist in content. Some occasionally hypnotic poems by Walt Whitman contain intellectualist lines and hypnotic passages which put the audience under a "spell of particular magic" (Snyder 81). For example, "When Lilacs Last in the Door Yard Bloomed" puts some readers or listeners under such a spell. Lines such as: "Copious, I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes" and "Appeared the crowd, appeared the long black trail" are hypnotic at least in their rhythm, if not in their contrasting images (Whitman, Leaves of Grass 277). On the other hand, other lines in that poem like "O singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear your call" are intellectualist because they primarily express thought (Leaves 277). Snyder mentions something important here, which I will attempt to address more thoroughly later, namely, the significance of how a hypnotic poem 13

is read and the importance of how the audience receives it. Whether the poem's magic works depends both upon the sympathy of the audience and upon the manner in which the poem is read aloud. When the reader reads such a Whitman poem aloud in the solemn, almost intoned, manner in which the Psalms are typically read, the lines can impart hypnotic experience, despite their lack of rhymes and regular meter (Snyder 81). Above, I have made an effort to describe Snyder's hypnotic poetry taxonomy and the three types of poems it categorizes: the hypnotic, the occasionally hypnotic, and the intellectualist poem. Before and since Snyder, other British and American literary theorists, some of them poets or novelists, have endeavored to define either hypnotic poetry or hypnotic elements within poetry. Until recently, the lack of a sophisticated, experimental research made the rigorous definition of hypnosis impossible. This lack of research has hampered the understanding and study of hypnotic poetry. The lack of sound research has permitted vague and sensational descriptions of hypnotism to defame it and has led literary theorists to neglect hypnotic poetry. I believe this neglect is not only unfortunate, but it is also undeserved. Hypnotic trance is a harmless and natural common occurrence. Self-hypnotic processes are a part of most people's daily lives (Bliss, Multiple Personality Disorders and Hypnosis 221). Nearly every driver has passed a freeway exit to become suddenly aware that they were behind the wheel, wondering where they were going. Most people have become so absorbed in thought as they set out for some place, such as a store, only to find themselves headed to their place of employment. Similarly, any 14

avid reader has become so involved in reading a book that many minutes and pages have passed before they realize they have other things to do. The flying fixation of aviators, some mystical experiences, and the post-traumatic stress of soldiers are further examples of hypnotic processes. These are examples of everyday hypnosis. Hypnotists and hypnotic poets precipitate or build upon this everyday state of mind to produce intense and often emotionally engaging experiences or poetry. It should not be surprising that some poets and literary theorists have evinced an awareness of these processes, however unsystematic their presentation of their insights. The writers and literary theorists displaying either an explicit or tacit knowledge of hypnotic processes in literature include some major figures in literature of the modern era. In England, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and, later, in America, Poe discussed meter and rhythm in prose or poetry in ways suggesting and identifying hypnotic patterns without actually designating them as hypnotic. Coleridge's discussion of fancy, akin to imagination, is in some ways reminiscent of contemporary descriptions of hypnotic trance. William Butler Yeats, critic Albert Mordell, and I. A. Richards identified and named hypnotic language patterns in literature as such patterns were known at the time. Somewhat contemporaneously to Yeats, Mordell, Richards, the critic Max Eastman and June Downey, an experimental psychologist, in addition to Snyder, discussed the hypnotic in poetry from their perspectives. Coleridge discusses meter in ways seemingly prototypical of 20th century hypnotists. In Biographia Literaria, he speaks of meter in terms of what 15

hypnotists call pacing and rhythm. The poet aims to arrange words so that when they are read or heard, they produce pleasure (Biographia 172). In poetry, meter plays a role in pleasure production. Accompanied by surprise, meter works to "increase the vivacity and susceptibility" of the emotions and the attention of the poet, reader and audience (Biographia 207). The poet's will counteracts conflicting emotions within the poet and organizes and achieves the consequent balance with meter (Biographia 206). Once the poet's will is so balanced, "picaresque and vivifying language" can ensue, provided there has been an "interpenetration of passion and will" within the poet (Biographia 206). The will of the poet to evoke pleasure and conflicting passions must interpenetrate one another proportionately; otherwise, they would not amount to sounds that are pleasing to the reader or audience. It is impossible to construct an exact fit between present-day theory and literary theory of the past. Nevertheless, there are some correspondences between reframing in hypnotism theory and Coleridge's conjoining of fancy and imagination. A hypnotist uses reframing to change the client's interpretations and feelings about something. For example, a hypnotist changes a smoker's interpretations of cigarettes and cigarette smoke from those of something appealing to something unappealing. The hypnotist may induce in the client the feeling that a pack of cigarettes is as interesting and appealing as a block of wood. Or, the hypnotist may tell a client that cigarette smoke smells and tastes like rotten eggs. In other words, by employing words and rhythms which lead the client into trance, the hypnotist compels the client to re-associate and reorganize 16

his or her inner experience, hoping the reorganization will change the client's own outer behavior toward something else (Brown, The Hypnotic Brain 244). Hypnotists Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi say hypnotists use literary devices to instigate unconscious searches within the client and to evoke multiple levels of meaning (Hypnotherapy 49). To induce clients to reorganize inner experience, hypnotists often use a forward rhythm combined with antithetical concepts and verbal structures in such a way that the prosodic structure drives the narrative forward (243). Such forward driving prosodic structures usually occur during trance induction. Consider the following statement: "You are falling, falling completely safely into a bottomless well. When you reach the bottom of the bottomless well, you will feel safe and totally relaxed." Here, the hypnotist says the client is falling, yet he or she is also safe and feeling relaxed. The words take the client downward (forward), to the bottom of the well, yet backward, because the well is bottomless. Poets use the same strategy. The statement, "To be or not to be: that is the question" combines forward rhythm and the antithetical concepts of being and non-being. The phrase, "To be" takes the reader either to birth or to the present. A living person understands that being is the here and now, in the present. For a person not to be, he or she would have to die or to have never been born. A non-being state would be similar to death or an existence prior to birth. In moving from birth to death, from the present to the past, the reader or audience is taken conceptually and rhythmically backward and forward in time. When Hamlet chooses to live rather than to commit suicide, not many of the spellbound readers or audience members who read or hear 17

Full document contains 289 pages
Abstract: This dissertation attempts to take a new direction in literary theory and criticism. In it, I examine spell-weaving or hypnotic poetry to see if it can be established as a genre. I believe that some poetry endures and is re-read over generations because it is hypnotic. I look at previous discussions of hypnotic poetry by literary theorists, critics and authors who directly discuss or who seem to intuitively sense poetry that is hypnotic. Part of this dissertation discusses well-known poems that have lasted for generations and interacts them with hypnotism texts used therapeutically by professional hypnotists. There is a consideration and discussion of contemporary neuroscience, how it informs the scientific understanding of hypnotic trance, and how such understandings argue for the cultural value of hypnotic trance. There is no attempt in this dissertation to medicalize hypnotic poetry or to turn it into some kind of therapy. Finally, this dissertation shows what a hypnotic theory-based approach could offer literary theory and criticism.