Rural Avant-Garde: Mapping Contemporary U.S. Poetry Collectives Outside the Metropolis

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Abstract

Rural Avant-Garde is a study of modern and contemporary avant-garde poetry collectives based in the rural United States. Against the unspoken consensus that urban centers alone have shaped avant-garde and modernist discourses, I foreground a variety of material practices rooted in rural geographies—small presses, D.I.Y. reading series, anthologies, and email listservs, among them—and emphasize their interpellation through region, infrastructure, and the university. My study begins with the so-called “small press revolution” of the 1960s and ends in the pre–COVID-19 2010s, narrating the effect of the internet, academic creative writing programs, and the neoliberal turn upon rural poetry communities. My case studies include the following: Ithaca House, a small press that operated in Ithaca, New York from 1969 to 1986; the contemporary cult following surrounding Frank Stanford, an Arkansas-based poet who produced a oeuvre of surrealist poetry in the late 1960s and ‘70s; Lucifer Poetics, an email listserv for experimental poets in central North Carolina during the 2000s; and Open Mouth and Trobar Ric, two contemporary poetry reading series respectively based in Arkansas and Mississippi. The broader aims of my dissertation are twofold. I argue, first, that a study of rural poetic collectivity necessarily foregrounds the material entities that enable any avant-garde practice, whether rural or urban (in particular, my project foregrounds the mediating role of the university, an influence often elided from narratives of small press subcultures). Secondly, by centralizing collectives that employ the rural as a site of collaboration and interchange, I work against monolithic, pastoral conceptions of the country, instead disclosing the complexly networked, heterogeneous characteristics of contemporary rural life.

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231 pages
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2022-08
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Avant-garde; Contemporary; Media studies; Poetry; Rural
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Braddock, Jeremy
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Villarejo, Amy
Gilbert, Roger Stephen
Londe, Gregory Michael
Degree Discipline
English Language and Literature
Degree Name
Ph. D., English Language and Literature
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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dissertation or thesis
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