Date of Award

Spring 4-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Janet McAdams


After several decades of relative obscurity, interest in Southern writer Frank Stanford has recently resurged. Literary criticism on his works, however, has been limited by biographical and psychoanalytic approaches to his poetry that tend to overstress the influences of the author’s actual acquaintances, experiences, and interests in his art, neglecting the broader creative achievements of his work. In this paper, I propose a reading of The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, Stanford’s most ambitious poem, as a reflection on a problem of social empathy under historical and cultural duress. I explore how the poem represents this issue in both its aesthetic and social dimensions, focusing on Stanford’s use of cinematic language and on the cultural constructions of masculinity that permeate the poem, as well as the racial division that haunts its protagonist. I ultimately suggest that The Battlefield’s perplexing structure and imagery, when considered alongside alternative approaches to literary realism such as those presented by Hispanic writers associated with magical realism and writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch, not only offer a potential solution to this problem of empathy, but also contest the “surrealist” label that is commonly attached to Stanford’s works.

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