The 2014 Brock-Fulbright

Faculty of Humanities

The 2014 Brock-Fulbright


Kaplan Harris is Associate Professor of English and Director of English Graduate Studies at St. Bonaventure University. His recent scholarship on poetry and poetics appears in American Literature (2009), Contemporary Literature (2006, 2012), Jacket2 (2011), Open Letter (2013), Paideuma (2010), Postmodern Culture (2011), Sagetrieb (2013), Wild Orchids (2010), and more. He has forthcoming essays in the Cambridge Companion to California Literature and the Cambridge Companion to American Modernist Poetry. He is editor, with Peter Baker and Rod Smith, of The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley for the University of California Press (fall 2013).

For the research component of the Fulbright, I will be writing at least one chapter of a book project on small press publishing practices in the wake of the modernist little magazines. My previous book, which will be completed this year, is a regional study of San Francisco poetry and political activism that ranges from the fracturing of the New Left to the rise of AIDS activism. I am now more interested in cross-national and cross-linguistic networks of small press print culture. The three poets that I plan to track include Lisa Robertson (Vancouver), Nicole Brossard (Montreal), and bpnichol (Toronto), though I may find these particular figures change as the research proceeds.

My methodology privileges small press magazines and institutional affiliations over and above the close reading of poetry. The tried and true methods of close reading (or formalism) are still significant to my organizing scheme, but they tend to serve as patchwork or linkages for arguments that primarily center on the print venues in which the literary works were embedded and took shape. Literature scholars sometimes call this latter approach a sociology of literary form.

Who am I arguing against? Anthologies continue to hold a monopoly on the teaching and study of late twentieth-century poetry scholars. This is less so the case with scholarship on the early twentieth-century. As George Bornstein (author of Material Modernism) rightly argues, a poem that appears in a magazine is not the same poem when it appears in an anthology or a book of poems. For more than a decade modernists have taken this lesson to heart by organizing their studies around periodicals rather than author-based or group-based models. Indeed the digitization of printed materials that fall under the legal status of pre-1923 public domain enormously facilitates these new lines of modernist study. The situation is vastly different for research in later periods. Because US copyright law restricts accessing and quoting publications from after 1923, scholars of later periods find themselves working in a veritable dark ages in comparison to their modernist peers. Historians of what I call late print culture (viz. before the meteoric rise of internet publishing) are required to conduct research with one hand tied behind their back. They must understandably spend more time in the archive than scholars who are able to access databases that search scanned and digitized texts in mere seconds.

The question of access is even far more daunting for researchers like myself who are interested small press magazines published outside the U.S., for the collecting policies of major university archives can all too often reflect nationalist myopia. For this reason I would relish the opportunity to work on-site with fugitive small press magazines in Canadian archives.

Two sections of this project on publishing practices are already complete. One, published in a shortened version as a review essay of Charles Bernstein's selected poems, addresses the economics of small press publishing since the mimeograph revolution (roughly the 1960s). Another, delivered last year at the Modernist Studies Association conference, addresses the magazine publications of Larry Eigner, a palsied poet whose limited mobility confined him to a life of home care, but whose prolific publications reached communities throughout North American and Europe. E.g., although he never visited Canada, Eigner was a long-running guest poet in TISH, the vastly influential Vancouver avant-garde magazine of the 1960s.  


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