The Objectivist Nexus: Essays in Cultural Poetics / Edition 2

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"Objectivist" writers, conjoined through a variety of personal, ideological, and literary-historical links, have, from the late 1920s to the present, attracted emulation and suspicion. Representing a nonsymbolist, postimagist poetics and characterized by a historical, realist, antimythological worldview, Objectivists have retained their outsider status. Despite such status, however, the formal, intellectual, ideological, and ethical concerns of the Objectivist nexus have increasingly influenced poetry and poetics in the United States.

Thus, argue editors Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Peter Quartermain, the time has come for an anthology that unites essential works on Objectivist practices and presents Objectivist writing as an enlargement of the possibilities of poetry rather than as a determinable and definable literary movement. The authors' collective aim is to bring attention to this group of poets and to exemplify and specify cultural readings for poetic texts--readings alert to the material world, politics, society, and history, and readings concerned with the production, dissemination, and reception of poetic texts.

The contributors consider Basil Bunting, Lorine Niedecker, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, and Louis Zukofsky within both their historical milieu and our own. The essays insist on poetry as a mode of thought; analyze and evaluate Objectivist politics; focus on the ethical, spiritual, and religious issues raised by certain Objectivist affiliations with Judaism; and explore the dissemination of poetic texts and the vagaries of Objectivist reception. Running throughout the book are two related threads: Objectivist writing as generally a practice aware of its own historical and social contingency and Objectivist writing as a site of complexity, contestation, interrogation, and disagreement.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The critics and poets in this important collection create new paradigms for the study of poetry and culture. . . . This book will be important to any reader of modern and contemporary American poetry." —Susan M. Schultz

"Editors DuPlessis and Quartermain have done a valuable service in collecting these essays which confirm and extend the importance of Objectivist poetics in American poetry....This collection of essays serves to flesh out the many paradoxes inherent in these oftentimes unlike and cantankerous poets. It elucidates relationships between the cultural milieu and this group of writers whose work frequently engages in social, political, and cultural criticism. It connects the reader to the core aesthetics which enabled for such a destabilizing, avant-garde poetics. DuPlessis and Quartermain suggest the term "nexus" for its un-limiting quality—defining a movement in which the poets' differences and changing concerns orbit around each other, retaining relationship, but allowing contradiction. This valuable anthology furthers the fine work began in Quartermain's Disjunctive Poetics: From Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe published in 1992 by Cambridge University Press. The Objectivist Nexus is an essential tool to understanding a complicated, lively, and enlightened poetic movement of the last century, which will continue to exercise considerable influence in this one." --Jeffrey Beam, Oyster Boy Review

"Rachel Blau DuPlessis's and Peter Quartermain's The Objectivist Nexus [is] not only useful but downright necessary. This volume, which collects essays by Charles Altieri, Alan Golding, Peter Middleton, Charles Bernstein, Stephen Fredman, and others, establishes the canon of so-called Objectivist poets, situates them in their composition and reception contexts, reads them through the interpretive filters of politics, ethics, and religion, and argues for their significance in the history of twentieth-century American poetry. This major set of objectives is admirably met, and the book should help to redefine 'Objectivist.'"--Michael Thurston, Yale University, in Modernism/modernity

Nothing to do with Ayn Rand's philosophy. A collection of 16 core texts examining objectivist poets, who practice a nonsymbolist, postimagist poetics characterized by a historical, realist, anti- mythological worldview. The essays are linked by notions of the writing as generally a practice aware of its own historical and social contingency and as a site of complexity, contestation, interrogation, and disagreement. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817309749
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 7/22/1999
  • Series: Modern & Contemporary Poetics Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Rachel Blau DuPlessis is Professor of English at Temple University.
Peter Quartermain is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia.

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Table of Contents

I "We Said / Objectivist": Optics, Objectification, Sincerity, Seriality
1 The Objectivist Tradition 25
2 A Poetics of Marginality and Resistance: The Objectivist Poets in Context 37
3 Be Aware of "the Medusa's Glance": The Objectivist Lens and Carl Rakosi's Poetics of Strabismal Seeing 56
4 George Oppen's Serial Poems 84
II Politics, Class, and Ideology
5 Communists and Objectivists 107
6 Irrelevant Objects: Basil Bunting's Poetry of the 1930s 126
7 Objectivists in the Thirties: Utopocalyptic Moments 144
8 Lorine Niedecker's "Folk Base" and Her Challenge to the American Avant-Garde 160
III Ethics and Religious Culture
9 Tradition and Modernity, Judaism and Objectivism: The Poetry of Charles Reznikoff 191
10 Reznikoff's Nearness 210
11 Of Being Ethical: Reflections on George Oppen 240
IV Affiliations
12 Reading Reznikoff: Zukofsky, Oppen, and Niedecker 257
13 Zukofsky's List 275
14 "And All Now Is War": George Oppen, Charles Olson, and the Problem of Literary Generations 286
15 Land's End 294
16 The Transformations of Objectivism: An Afterword 301
Notes 319
Works Cited 343
Contributors 361
Index 365
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