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date: 20 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article identifies poets' engagements with material problems of manual labor that a more elitist critical aesthetic had preferred to ignore. It offers readings of two of the mostly frequently anthologized poems in the modern American poetry canon: Robert Frost's “The Death of the Hired Man” and T. S. Eliot's “Preludes.” Each can suggest the integral but long-neglected role that the labor problem and those who lived it—that is, the poor and working class—would play in the formation of canonical modern American poetry. Although they confront vastly different labor problems—hired laborers versus urban slums and prostitutes—both poems nevertheless wrestle with the claims such problems (and the human figures behind such problems) should make upon observers' sympathies.

Keywords: manual labor, Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man, T. S. Eliot, Preludes

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