We: Intersubjectivity and visions of community in American experimental poetry (1850–1968)
Scarry, Siobhan Lisa
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"We: Intersubjectivity and Visions of Community in American Experimental Poetry (1850-1968)" aims to expand the critical conversation surrounding American poetry and community. Reading a number of representative examples from the larger set of American poetries considered part of the experimental tradition, this project identifies a persistent strain of poetic engagement with community within poetries of the mid-19 th to the mid-20 th century in which community not only serves as a conceptual focus, but forges many of the innovations we associate with the experimental tradition itself. For writers such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, and George Oppen, the desire to re-ground and re-envision the concept of community shapes their poetries at the level of grammar, ontology, and poetic voice. These poetries "think" community outside of the accepted critical taxonomies of public communal art, identity/ideology, and coterie through which poetry and community are most often discussed, instead modeling a range of ontological possibilities and affective dispositions that might serve to re-ground social life. The chapters that follow are my attempt to retrieve what has been a recondite history of American experimental poetry's engagement with community during a one-hundred year span that critics have largely regarded as containing only didactic forms of poetic inquiry and lacking the kinds of indirect ethical explorations that come to be seen as operative within second-generation modernists, and later within Language Poetry. This project labors to fill this specific lacuna, while also serving as a more general corrective to a critical atmosphere in which experimental poetries as a whole are often considered to be private and esoteric lyrics unattached to the social world.