Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Elizabeth Hirsh, Ph.D.


Theory, Psychoanalysis, Superego, Derrida, Glas


This dissertation studies and applies the signature theory of Jacques Derrida to two American poets, Sharon Olds and John Cage. I begin by looking at the two texts by Derrida that most closely apply signature theory to poetics: Glas and Signsponge. Along the way, I narrow the scope of Derrida's writing somewhat by focusing on psychoanalytic aspects that relate to Jacques Lacan's ideas and to the concept of the superego. From this work I isolate some protocols for reading, which are then used to study Olds and Cage, two poets who have clearly developed their own signature styles. Here are the protocols:1. Treat Olds' and Cage's texts as blazons.2. Read for anthonomasia---Derrida's neologism combining the words anthology and antonomasia (the trope of using proper nouns as common nouns and vice versa).3. Look for (and practice) hypogram and anagram.4. Trace the placement in abyss.5. Post-death-of-the-author, read and write for and as if mourning.6. Eat the proper names, continuing whatever encryption of the letters can already be read. My studies of Olds and Cage alternate between application of these protocols and my attempt to follow the respective laws of their own signatures. In Olds' poetry the most prominent signature effect is the encryption of the Sh-effect. Cage's poetics places his rebus-signature in the abyss of his texts.