Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word

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University of California Press, 1997 - History - 273 pages
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Why do modern poets quote from dictionaries in their poems? How has the tape recorder changed the poet's voice? What has shopping to do with Gertrude Stein's aesthetics? These and other questions form the core of Ghostlier Demarcations, a study of modern poetry as a material medium. One of today's most respected critics of twentieth-century poetry and poetics, Michael Davidson argues that literary materiality has been dominated by an ideology of modernism, based on the ideal of the autonomous work of art, which has hindered our ability to read poetry as a socially critical medium. By focusing on writing as a palimpsest involving numerous layers of materiality--from the holograph manuscript to the printed book--Davidson exposes modern poetry's engagement with larger historical forces. The palimpsest that results is less a poem than an arrested stage of writing in whose layers can be discerned ghostly traces of other texts. Why do modern poets quote from dictionaries in their poems? How has the tape recorder changed the poet's voice? What has shopping to do with Gertrude Stein's aesthetics? These and other questions form the core of Ghostlier Demarcations, a study of modern poetry as a material medium. One of today's most respected critics of twentieth-century poetry and poetics, Michael Davidson argues that literary materiality has been dominated by an ideology of modernism, based on the ideal of the autonomous work of art, which has hindered our ability to read poetry as a socially critical medium. By focusing on writing as a palimpsest involving numerous layers of materiality--from the holograph manuscript to the printed book--Davidson exposes modern poetry's engagement with larger historical forces. The palimpsest that results is less a poem than an arrested stage of writing in whose layers can be discerned ghostly traces of other texts.
 

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About the author (1997)

Michael Davidson is Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century (1991) and several books of poetry.

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