Nations of Nothing But Poetry: Modernism, Transnationalism, and Synthetic Vernacular Writing

Overview


Modernism is typically associated with novelty and urbanity. So what happens when poets identify small communities and local languages with the spirit of transnational modernity? Are vernacular poetries inherently provincial or implicitly xenophobic? How did modernist poets use vernacular language to re-imagine the relations between people, their languages, and the communities in which they live?

Nations of Nothing But Poetry answers these questions through case studies of ...

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Overview


Modernism is typically associated with novelty and urbanity. So what happens when poets identify small communities and local languages with the spirit of transnational modernity? Are vernacular poetries inherently provincial or implicitly xenophobic? How did modernist poets use vernacular language to re-imagine the relations between people, their languages, and the communities in which they live?

Nations of Nothing But Poetry answers these questions through case studies of British, Caribbean, and American poetries from the 1920s through the 1990s. With a combination of fresh insights and attentive close readings, Matthew Hart presents a new theory of a "synthetic vernacular"-writing that explores the aesthetic and ideological tensions within modernism's dual commitments to the local and the global. The result is an invigorating contribution to the field of transnational modernist studies. Chapters focus on a mixture of canonical and non-canonical writers, combining new literary histories--such as the story of how Melvin B. Tolson, while a resident of Oklahoma, was appointed Poet Laureate of Liberia--with analyses of poems by Gertrude Stein, W. H. Auden, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot.

More broadly, the book reveals how the language of modernist poetry was shaped by the incompletely globalized nature of a world in which the nation-state continued to be a primary mediator of cultural and political identity, even as its authority was challenged as never before. Through deft juxtaposition, Hart develops a new interpretation of modernist poetry in English-one that disrupts the critical opposition between nationalism and the transnational, paving the way for a political history of modernist cosmopolitanism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A brilliant illumination of the pathways and crossways of twentieth-century poetry in the Anglophone Atlantic world. Hart redraws the lines of the modernist canon by addressing, with unusual vigor and impressive rigor, poems in which national vernaculars and cosmopolitan languages are constituted in and by each other. Any twentieth-century scholar interested in the progress of transnationalism from buzzword to genuine critical methodology will find this book indispensable and indelible."-Jed Esty, University of Pennsylvania

"In productive readings of poems composed in a local but never parochial discourse he calls the 'synthetic vernacular,' Matthew Hart remixes the logics by which we've understood modernism to examine an agitational poetics that is at once regional and transnational, ethnic and postcolonial. A boundary-confounding and generative book."-Dee Morris, University of Iowa

"Nations of Nothing But Poetry is a rich, supple, and capacious book that will become indispensable to any reader of later modernist and postcolonial poetries. Always inventive and often surprising, it weaves its way from Stein to Loy by way of MacDiarmid and Bunting, Brathwaite and Eliot, Mullen and Tolson. Its gifts range from the luminosity of its close readings to the intricate unpicking of the politics of culture and of form. This is a book to be read again and again: it will yield new discoveries on every reading."-David Lloyd, University of Southern California

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199324712
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2013
  • Series: Modernist Literature and Culture Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Hart is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Good To Know

In our interview, Hart revealed some interesting facts about himself:

"My first car was a black MG Sprite with bugeye headlights. My girlfriend said she liked getting in and out of it more than she liked driving around in it. Our romance quickly fell apart."

"I love the Diamond Coast above all other places, for its remoteness."

"When I was working on Diamond, I met a bush pilot who had made a fortune in the stock market, betting on the Arctic diamond play. Yet he still flew a bush plane (a Twin Otter), and couldn't imagine doing anything else. I remember one flight where we flew mile after mile, hundreds of miles, very low to the ground, with this scarlet vegetation streaming by beneath us and lakes with white swans, and I thought the pilot must be the luckiest man on earth, to be able to pursue this life when he could easily afford any other. I guess it's the life of action that so appeals to a writer, whose life, after all, is mostly sitting in a room alone all day."

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    1. Hometown:
      London, England

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Vernacular Discourse from Major to Minor 47
Chapter 2 The Impossibility of Synthetic Scots; or,
Hugh MacDiarmid's Nationalist Internationalism 94
Chapter 3 A Dialect Written in the Spelling of the Capital:
Basil Bunting Goes Home 146
Chapter 4 Tradition and the Postcolonial Talent:
T. S. Eliot versus E. K. Brathwaite 198
Chapter 5 Transnational Anthems and the Ship of State:
Harryette Mullen, Melvin B. Tolson and the
Politics of Afro-Modernism 263
Epilogue Denationalizing Mina Loy 328

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