Sounding Print Culture, 1953-1968 Open Access

Chinn, Lisa (2016)

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The over-reliance on the eye as a central tool of analysis in the textual scholar's toolbox has left much of our literary history to stagnate in the dark corners of the archive. My project, "Sounding Print Culture, 1953-1968," brings together studies in print culture and sound studies, a subfield in media studies, so that we may hear the archive anew. My project argues that as forms of print technology changed, so too did a conception of the printed page as a strictly visual representation of the sonic experience of poetry. I argue that poetry published in--and the publishers of--little magazines after 1945 perceived the printed poem as a sonic experience. Because of this midcentury communal synesthesia, scholars have overlooked the importance of this fifteen-year period in twentieth-century literary history. Highlighting this history through a deeper investigation into print and sound technologies should change the way we read this era. My work illuminates how in the post-war period, the little magazine (defined as a magazine with a small, coterie audience that published poetry, short stories, and essays) evolved into a distinctly fraught site of tension. On the one hand, the poetics published in the magazines I examine between 1953 and 1968 promote a sonicity that cannot be captured by the print medium, making the little magazine a site of a failed poetic ideology. On the other hand, the little magazines capture for scholars the tension between a medium that cannot fulfill an author's poetic promise and a poetics that necessitates a new medium. As such, this postwar period cultivated two distinct types of little magazine that attempted to capture a new sonic poetics. Mimeograph little magazines proliferated so much that the era is now termed the "mimeograph revolution," which were published alongside a highly stylized, intricately composed little magazine that would include seven-inch records inscribed with poetry, prose, and musical compositions. The tense interplay between the mimeographed and highly stylized little magazine shows the "identity crisis" of poetry that relied on print for dissemination, yet yearned for a sonic form.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1.

Against Ephemerality: What the Little Magazine Can Tell Us about Sound. 1

Chapter 2.

Text Understood as Speech/ Speech Understood as Text: Projectivist Poetics in Black Mountain Review and Psychovisualism in The Free Lance. 36

Chapter 3.

Locating Acousmatic Sound in the Mid-Century Lyric: Yugen and The Floating Bear. 91

Chapter 4.

The Divergence of Poetic Cultures: Les Deux Megots and Aspen. 147

Conclusion. 186

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