• R.M. Haines

Book List

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

So I have been searching for books that address the relationships between the economy, class politics, and the arts, especially poetry and its institutions. There is actually a lot of work being done on how all this intersects in the arts more generally, and the world of fiction and memoir, but less specifically devoted to poetry. Of course, I don't claim to be comprehensive, and I am making this list with the HOPE that others with add onto it (tho commenting on the blog itself requires sign in, which is annoying; if you add them to twitter, I'll include them here). But this is what I have so far.

A few caveats: I am not going to refer to more canonical works of theory, because then things get unruly. I'm also not including actual works of poetry. Lastly, for the sake of time, I have not included publisher info here; I'll do so ASAP.

And thanks to various people who tweeted some of these titles (Dominick Knowles, Mathilda Cullen, Sarah Ehlers, plus others I may have forgotten).

Poetry-Specific Theory and History

The Matter of Capital, Chris Nealon -- the intro provides an especially useful breakdown of how class politics was largely erased from dominant literary studies in the second half of the 20th century

Left of Poetry, Sarah Ehlers -- excellent book, filling in poetic content overlooked in Denning's The Cultural Front (see below) book and also offers arguments on lyric theory

Communism and Poetry, eds. Ruth Jennison and Julian Murphet -- excellent collection of essays that explore communism and poetry, with special attention to the work of Sean Bonney

The Zukofsky Era, Ruth Jennison -- excellent account of Objectivists Zukofsky, Niedecker, and Oppen; very detailed application of Marxist theory, extremely sharp and lucid throughout

Cultural and Institutional History

The Cultural Front, Michael Denning -- essential and definitive account of the Popular Front and US proletarian art and culture in the 1930s.

Anti-Book: On the Art and Politics of Radical Publishing, Nicholas Thoburn -- just saw this today from Mathilda; looks incredibly important

Provisional Avant-Gardes: Little Magazine Communities from Dada to Digital, Sophie Seita

Exiles from a Future Time and the rest of Alan Wald's trilogy focusing on the anti-Stalinist left, later dubbed the "New York Intellectuals"; it shows the transition from the Old Left 30's through the McCarthy Era and into the New Left 60s and forward.

Du Bois's Telegram, Juliana Spahr -- very important insights into the state of autonomy in literature, with a dire assessment of possibilities for any truly radical autonomy prior to outright revolution.

Workshops of Empire, Eric Bennett -- a famous account of how Engle, Stegner, et al. formed the field of creative writing with cooperation and sponsorship of the state as an arm of the Cold War to help de-radicalize and liberalize writers; also useful is his essay-length distillation of this argument in "How Iowa Flattened Literature"

Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History, Joseph North -- a good account of how the politics of literature intersected with the university, and the paths it has taken on its way to our current neoliberal institution; not specifically related to poetic production, but as many who write poetry are at some point students, and as many dominant poetry institutions are rooted in the academy, this has relevance

Very Recent Works of Criticism on Art and Economy

Neoliberalism and Contemporary Literary Culture, eds. Mitchum Huehls and Rachel Greenwald Smith -- very useful collection of essays addressing just what its title says; authors include Sarah Brouillette & Leigh Claire la Berge, both of whom have books listed below.

Literature and the Creative Economy, Sarah Brouillette -- largely UK focused, but excellent, excellent book

Wages Against Artwork, Leigh Claire La Berge

The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization, Jasper Bernes

Art and Value: Art’s Economic Exceptionalism in Classical, Neoclassical and Marxist Economics, Dave Beech

Autonomy, Nicholas Brown -- rooted in philosophy, so proceed with some caution; but there is some useful stuff in here

Dead Pledges, Annie McClanahan -- some very useful accounts of debt, especially as it intersects with literature and education

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