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Poets Beyond the Barricade

Rhetoric, Citizenship, and Dissent after 1960

Dale M. Smith

Publication Year: 2012

Since the cultural conflicts over the Vietnam War and civil rights protests, poets and poetry have consistently raised questions surrounding public address, social relations, friction between global policies and democratic institutions, and the interpretation of political events and ideas. In Poets Beyond the Barricade: Rhetoric, Citizenship, and Dissent after 1960, Dale Smith makes meaningful links among rhetoric, literature, and cultural studies, illustrating how poetry and discussions of it shaped public consciousness from the socially volatile era of the 1960s to the War on Terror of today.
The book begins by inspecting the correspondence and poetry of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, which embodies competing perspectives on the role of writers in the Vietnam War and in the peace movement. The work addresses the rational-critical mode of public discourse initiated by Jürgen Habermas and the relevance of rhetorical studies to literary practice. Smith also analyses letters and poetry by Charles Olson that appeared in a New England newspaper in the 1960sand drew attention to city management conflicts, land-use issues, and architectural preservation. Public identity and U.S. social practice are explored in the 1970s and ‘80s poetry of Lorenzo Thomas and Edward Dorn, whose poems articulate tensions between private and public life. The book concludes by examining more recent attempts by poets to influence public reflection on crucial events that led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By using digital media, public performance, and civic encounters mediated by texts, these poetic initiatives play a critical role in the formation of cultural identity today.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Series: Rhetoric, Culture, and Social Critique


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Title Page, Copyright, Frontispiece

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

Poets Beyond the Barricade addresses the rhetorical and cultural strategies of poetry during an era in which revolutionary events are noticeably absent. As i stress throughout this book, poetry after 1960, when used to respond to public situations, intervenes to engage our awareness, to challenge our...

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Introduction: “The Press of Possibility”: Poetry, Public Culture, and Modality

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pp. 1-21

American public culture requires the social possibilities expressed through civil activism and dissent. Examples of such potential are especially abundant in the last century, ranging from the heroic Seattle General Strike of February 1919 to the Vietnam-era resistance efforts so broadly publicized by...

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1. “Dear Gloucester”

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pp. 22-47

While best known for his epic The Maximus Poems, a work that self-consciously engages a modernist tradition in the spirit of William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and others, Charles Olson modified the practice of modernist pastiche and assembly to establish a voice that was plausibly...

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2. Rhetorics of “Advantage” and “Pure Persuasion”: Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, and Vietnam

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pp. 48-74

My title for this chapter conveys certain flexibilities and potentials in poetry when it is used as a public art. Kenneth Burke’s distinction of a “rhetoric of advantage” and the rhetorical possibilities based on “pure persuasion” suggests that public awareness can be produced on divisive topics by...

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3. Public Witness/Public Mind: Media, Citizenship, and Dissent in the Poetry of Lorenzo Thomas and Edward Dorn

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pp. 75-108

Just as print media in the eighteenth century influenced the rise of a public sphere (as Jürgen Habermas has shown), television and other media in the middle decades of the twentieth century similarly shaped attitudes and beliefs about public and cultural life in the United...

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4. Poets Against War

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pp. 109-134

Inquiries and engagements in public poetry have grown in recent years out of opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.1 While forms of social protest continued in poetry during the decades following the public outcry to war in Vietnam, the Iraq War has challenged poets to develop...

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Afterword: Poetry as a Modality of Rhetoric in Modernist

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pp. 135-138

Consider, again, Nancy S. Struever’s engagement with modality, and her urgency “in defining not Modernity as epoch, but the nature of Modernist inquiry.”1 in her argument, systemic political philosophy accounts for actualities at the expense of possible actions and capacities...


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pp. 139-168


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pp. 169-176


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pp. 177-184

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780817385927
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317492

Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Rhetoric, Culture, and Social Critique
Series Editor Byline: John Louis Lucaites See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 772845362
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Poets Beyond the Barricade

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Subject Headings

  • Dissenters -- United States.
  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Political and social views.
  • American poetry -- 21st century -- History and criticism.
  • War and literature -- United States.
  • Literature and society -- United States.
  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Persuasion (Psychology) in literature.
  • Protest poetry, American -- History and criticism.
  • Politics and literature -- United States.
  • Persuasion (Rhetoric) in literature.
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