Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Pearl McHaney - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. David Bottoms

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt


ABSTRACT For more than fifty years, Philip Levine has successfully written verse and prose on a number of subjects and themes including the complexities of familial relationships, the anarchists of the Spanish Civil War, the importance and effects of memory in life, race relations in the United States, the poet’s Jewish identity, and the very struggles that writing meaningful poetry involves. A cursory look at the scholarship on Levine’s poetry reveals that these are the topics frequently discussed and analyzed. However, as anyone can recognize in the criticism on Levine’s verse, Levine’s reputation does not rest so much on his attention to these themes and topics as it does on his presentation of and sympathies with individuals working in the context of modern industrial society. This dissertation identifies and analyzes Levine’s presentations of work and working-class individuals. Starting with the argument that more scholarship needs to be performed on Levine’s poetry than what currently exists, the dissertation’s first part points to Levine’s reputation in and contributions to American poetry. Proceeding to undertake the further study called for in part one, the second part of the dissertation identifies representative examples of working-class elements within Levine’s poetry and places them within historical context as far as poetry is concerned in general. Part three specifically looks at the ways in which Levine’s poetry expresses and relates to Marx’s idea that all of history revolves around the concept of class struggle. The final section of the dissertation explores how Levine’s poetry represents Marx’s theory of alienation among the working-class, identifying and analyzing key examples from throughout the poet’s oeuvre.