Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Picking a book to read is like diving for a pearl, writes Elinor Wylie, a 20th Century American poet, novelist, essayist and prominent magazine literary editor. In her essay "The Pearl Diver", she writes that it is the diver that risks the unknown- unaided by diving equipment in the form of library indexes-who gains the greatest joy, Wylie states (Fugitive Prose, 869). Wylie explains:

I venture to perceive an analogy between the rebellious pearl diver and myself, in my slight experience with public much more delightful, how much more stimulating, to abandon the paraphernalia of card indexes and mahogany desks and slip unhampered into cool water; to snatch in the middle of a bursting breath the adventurous jewel or antique coin upon which one's fingers chance to fall! (869)

Today, it would take an unaided dive into the depths of the literary shoals that sank precious artworks to find the four novels and four poetry volumes Wylie gave the world in eight shining years.

It was a Providential, "unaided dive" that brought me to Wylie's jewels.I was perusing the free book tables in Suny Cortland's English Department when I stumbled across the 1996 edition of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women and clutched it as my very own. Later, I was looking through the anthology for a work by a different author when I stumbled upon Wylie's "Let No Charitable Hope", (1387). Here, in this poem, was the lived reality of womanhood. I marked the passage with a flashcard from my French class and came back to the author for my thesis.

By this time I had read much more of Wylie's poetry and prose and conducted an informal survey of my professors: Wylie's lyrical creations were unheard of and unknown. Here was a writer- a contemporary of Robert Frost and Ernest Himengway [sic]- who wrote of nature's grace like Frost, adhered to style and allegory as strictly as Hemmingway [sic], and used masterful technique to elucidate the same themes of rugged individualism and the futility of war. With Wylie I had taken an unaided dive and found a pearl.