Although the poems of The Black Riders and other lines, by Stephen Crane, have often been treated as if they are simple--easy to interpret and easy to categorize--these poems actually support a multiplicity of interpretations. The multiplicity of interpretations available in the poems informs the possibility of tracing a variety of interrelationships through the poetry. While a few previous scholars have treated the poems as if they are interrelated, the interrelationship of the poetry has not been explicitly and substantially addressed as a feature of the poetry. The poems, in fact, support a combinatorial complexity only previously hinted at in the scholarship on this poetry. In this essay, the problem of "presence" is identified and investigated as an important theme of The Black Riders, by examining individual poems and by tracing that theme through a single, exemplary interrelationship of the poetry. This "problem of 'presence'" is rooted in language, as elucidated by Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques Derrida. Because of the problem of "presence" no "truth" can be known as truth--and, in fact, no thing can be known as a thing, in its "thingliness" as if a thing can be known as it "exists" prior to language, as if it is fully "present." The problem of "presence" can be found on the surface of several poems, for example, when characters in the poems fail to attain places or things, but this problem also underlies what appears on the surface of several poems. The analysis of the problem of "presence" in the poems, as that problem is revealed through the interrelationship of the poetry--and as that analysis draws attention to the interrelationship of the poetry as such--undermines the assumption that the poetry is simple.


Anne O'Meara

Committee Member

John Banschbach

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)




Arts and Humanities

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License