Ethics and Politics in Modern American Poetry

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Routledge, Jun 25, 2012 - Literary Criticism - 236 pages
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From the Objectivists to e-poetry, this thoughtful and innovative book explores the dynamic relationship between the ethical imperative and poetic practice, revitalizing the study of the most prominent post-war American poets in a fresh, provocative way. Contributing to the "turn to ethics" in literary studies, the book begins with Emmanual Levinas’ philosophy, proposing that his reorientation of ontology and ethics demands a social responsibility. In poetic practice this responsibility for the other, it is argued, is both responsive to the traumatized semiotics of our shared language and directed towards an emancipatory social activism.

Individual chapters deal with Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems (including reproductions of previously unpublished archive material), Gary Snyder’s environmental poetry, Allen Ginsberg’s Beat poetics, Jerome Rothenberg’s ethnopoetics, and Bruce Andrew’s Language poetry. Following the book’s chronological and contextual approach, their work is situated within a constellation of poetic schools and movements, and in relation to the shifting socio-political conditions of post-war America. In its redefinition and extension of the key notion of "poethics" and, as guide to the development of experimental work in modern American poetry, this book will interest and appeal to a wide audience.


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Read the effin' poetry, skip the pretentious, self-adoring, vacuous criticism. No creature that walks or crawls upon the earth is as jealous of the truly creative individual as the critic. Worse, such critics defile the powerful, ineffably rich English language with invented words that serve only as code to other intellectual castrati. Which critic has ever moved the heart? Which critic has shaken the soul? Today's "literary criticism" is about tenure, not talent.
Read the poetry, read the poetry. No serious reader ever mourned a critic's death.


The Poethical Trajectory
2 Charles Olsons Ethics of Form in The Maximus Poems
3 Environmental Ethics in the Poetry of Gary Snyder
4 Subcultural Selfothering and the Beat Poetics of Allen Ginsberg
Jerome Rothenbergs Ethnopoetics
The Turn to Language and Bruce Andrews Poethical Praxis
The Performative Dialogics of Poethical Praxis

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About the author (2012)

John Wrighton has a PhD in English from Aberystwyth University, UK.

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