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The song in the machine: Organic forms of American poetry

Författare Joel Duncan
Datum för examination 2016-08-22
ISBN 9781369540666
Förlag ProQuest Dissertations Publishing
Förlagsort Ann Arbor, Michigan
Publiceringsår 2016
Publicerad vid
Språk en
Länkar https://search.proquest.com/docview...
Ämnesord Language, literature and linguistics; Philosophy, religion and theology; Free verse; Organicism; Poetry
Ämneskategorier Litteraturstudier, Litteraturvetenskap


In breaking from dominant poetic forms, American poets writing in free verse have themselves produced a rich tradition of aesthetic formalisms. This dissertation argues that their innovations, rather than mere freaks of fancy, have harnessed the machinery of capitalist development toward poetic ends. William Carlos Williams’ “machine made of words” is continuous with Walt Whitman’s organicism in Leaves of Grass, as both sought to transform capitalist social relations and machinery into aesthetic experiences that foreground human capacities and imagination. Free verse, though, is not inherently more radical than traditional verse forms, and the fetishization of technique is often part and parcel of an exclusionary politics of white, masculine labor. In their confrontations with capital these poets have crafted a variety of organicist forms, transforming social conditions toward both liberatory and reactionary ends. Chapter One considers Whitman’s confrontation with industrial capitalism and slavery, elaborating how the “hum” produced by his loafer in the grass transforms the abstract equality inherent in wage labor toward poetic song. In Chapter Two Williams takes up this hum through his automobile’s confrontation with an electric power plant in The Great American Novel , pitting poetic self-possession against the alienating forces of technology. His objectivism inscribes the experience of the car—its thrills and dangers—into the distinctive lineation of poems in Spring and All and elsewhere. Ezra Pound, for his part, seeks to surpass the contradiction between machine and man in his vision of an absolute technê. Like Williams, Charles Olson struggled with the automobile as a symbol for poetic autonomy, the contradictions of which inhered in the Fordist social compact. In Chapter Three we see how Frank O’Hara inherited Olson’s time signals in the crafting of his own “I do this I do that” style, while providing a critique of the valorization of machines as a means to personal immediacy. In the final chapter Ron Silliman’s long prose-poem Ketjak is read against the grain of his poetics in The New Sentence, showing how rather than simply jettisoning capitalist reification, his cascading and repetitive sentences ironize post-Fordist realities, including hyper-financialization and the eclipse of the programmatic workers’ movement.

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