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Rethinking the North American Long Poem: Matter, Form, Experiment

10.09.2020 - 13.09.2020, 23:59
Universität Basel, Petersplatz 1, 4001 Basel
SANAS (Swiss Association for North American Studies)

For centuries, the genre of the long poem has been chided and appraised in equal measure. Following in the footsteps of recently re-awakened scholarly interest, this conference focuses on the North American variant of this notorious poetological form—notorious because of its often forbidding and difficult character, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, in terms of aesthetics and politics, and of gender and genre.

In doing so, this conference aims to scrutinize the following questions: What constitutes a long poem apart from its sheer length? Does the “long” in long poem refer to the temporality of composition, the duration of reading, or simply the length of form irrespective of compositional and perceptual duration? Which themes and issues are discussed both in seminal long poems by North American writers—such as Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, H.D.’s Helen in Egypt, and Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems—and in more recent efforts within the fluid and flexible boundaries of this genre—such as Bruce Andrews’ Lip-Service, Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Drafts, M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!, and Robin Coste Lewis’ “Voyage of the Sable Venus”? Has the crucial opposition between mythology and history waned as a conceptual backdrop in recent long poems or have contemporary writers merely reframed its contours in the light of pressing social and political issues?

Taking the three categories of matter, form, and experiment as general frames of conceptual reference, the conference seeks to examine the ways in which material and immaterial aspects of literary practice, issues of content versus form, and the philosophically and politically inscribed duality of experience and experiment are negotiated in and by North American poems from the nineteenth century to the present.

We are extremely happy to have secured Nathan Brown (Concordia, CAN), Rachel Blau DuPlessis (Temple, US), and Marjorie Levinson (Michigan, US) as keynote speakers. In addition, the following scholars will all give talks on various aspects of the North American long poem tradition from the romantics to today: Mark Byers (Newcastle, UK), Matthew Carbery (Kent/Plymouth, UK), Christine Gerhardt (Bamberg, GER), David Herd (Kent, UK), Paul Jaussen (Lawrence Technological University, US), Brian J. McAllister (Sharjah, UAE), Peter Middleton (Southampton, UK), Josephine Park (UPenn, US), Sascha Pöhlmann (Konstanz/Munich, GER), Gabriele Rippl (Bern), and Kathy Lou Schultz (Memphis, US).

Kontakt und Anmeldung: Dr. Ridvan Askin, ridvan.askin(at)unibas.ch

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