"A" is for "archive": a case study in the American long poem

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Title: "A" is for "archive": a case study in the American long poem
Author: Nelson, Thomas J. ǂq (Thomas John)
Abstract: Long poems like Ezra Pound's The Cantos , William Carlos Williams's Paterson , and Louis Zukofsky's "A" collect and preserve cultural documents , much in the manner of archives . Long poems of the so -called "Pound tradition" are arrangements of discrete passages , including direct citations from sources such as letters , historical texts , and other often "non -poetic" documents . Acting as an archivist , the poet selects material for preservation . Critics have used various frames , notably the epic , the sequence , and the collection , to interpret twentieth -century long poems . Though similarities to archives have been noted , an archival frame has not been fully developed . This dissertation draws on the disciplinary practices of the archivists as well as critical imaginings of archives to develop a frame for interpreting long poems as archives . After establishing the parameters of the archival frame , the bulk of the dissertation concentrates on Zukofsky's archival tendencies . Zukofsky worked as an archivist for the Work Projects Administration's Index of American Design project , where he developed strategies for using an archive as a communicative form . He crafted and marketed his own literary archive as a means of establishing a literary reputation and as an alternative means of publication . But not only did he develop pragmatic uses of archives , he also applied his understanding of archival principles to the construction of his long poem "A" . The difficulties of reading "A" parallel those of working the Zukofsky archive . Readers are overwhelmed with hermetic details , documents of personal and public incidents , and records that we are unable to relate readily to surrounding material . Reading "A" as an archive , we must respond to the documents that are the component parts of the poem , to each document's situated context , and to the relationships among the parts that make up Zukofsky's "poem of a life ."
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /3496
Date: 2008-08-28

Citation

"A" is for "archive": a case study in the American long poem. Doctoral dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /3496 .

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