My Silver Planet
A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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1. Arresting Poetry: Kitsch, Totality, Expression
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Once upon a time, long before it had been reduced to a synonym for mediocrity in the arts, the term “kitsch” functioned as a lightning rod in debates about mass culture and the fate of modernism confronting the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. For a word now applied quite casually to trivial and spurious things...
2. Poetic Diction and the Substance of Kitsch
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Dreams, Mottos, Gossip References to the polemical history of kitsch are not uncommon in debates about popular culture, yet even the most astute contemporary observers usually overlook, as I have already noted, a central feature of the inaugural theorizations of kitsch: poetry is identified in the foundational essays on the subject as an important exemplum and genealogical source...
3. Miscreant: Dialectics and the Persistence of the Commonplace
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Modernist definitions frequently identify kitsch as the antithesis of art (or, in Clement Greenberg’s case, of the avant-garde), yet they also acknowledge a genealogical relation between art and kitsch. Hermann Broch, for example, discussing the artistic (or poetic) antecedents of kitsch, declares, “There are moments when the child becomes so like its mother that one...
4. The Spurious Progeny of Bare Nature
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Commonly referred to as the ballad revival, the complex appeal of traditional balladry (to elite audiences) in the eighteenth century coincided, one must acknowledge, with the decay of indigenous oral composition and of the once ubiquitous broadside ballad in print culture. According to Albert B. Friedman, “ballad-making continued to become...
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Refrain Poetic kitsch descends from the illegitimate offspring of the ballad revival of the eighteenth century. This debt can be reckoned in terms of the verbal qualities of the poem, by emphasizing its commonplace and spurious diction, as well as its dependence on various devices of repetition— especially the poetic refrain. At the same time, just as analysis of the pop...
6. Queer Idylls: Imposture, Inversion, Unknowing
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The experimental genre of the Gothic melodrama developed within the confines of a private estate, a secluded place transformed into a kind of delirium— a “silver planet”—by modes of poetic inscription associated with the antiquarian spirit of the age. An elaboration of what Addison called “the Fairy Way of Writing” thus converted a natural scene...
7. Kitsching the Cantos: Totality, Fascism, and les Paradis Artificiels
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Kitsch in poetry became more and more widespread—principally through the cottage industry of parlor ballads and the cult of simplicity— during the nineteenth century, yet the basic verbal platform of kitsch established in the eighteenth century remained largely intact: imposture, archaism, sentimentality, stereotypical diction...
8. Junk: A Shopper’s Guide to Poetic Language (and the New York School)
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For American poets, the traumatic legacy of Pound’s fascism and anti- Semitism converted the Cantos into a vast, partially abandoned minefield, riddled with hidden dangers and unspeakable ambitions. Any attempt to defend the Cantos could assess the poem only in fragments, thereby ignoring its scope as an epic, its synthetic powers, its vision of cultural...
9. Inventing Clichés: The Lost Legacy of Baudelaire’s Muddy Halo
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In the final stage of my attempt to outline a genealogy of poetry and kitsch, I want to identify a somewhat anomalous source for the modern synthesis of kitsch and vanguard poetry, a source inspiring the paradis artificiel of Pound’s polarized epic poem but also prescribing the synthetic and poetic “debris” of the New York school: Baudelaire’s nakedly...
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At the beginning of this book, I promised that learning more about the submerged relationship between kitsch and poetry would revise significantly our assumptions about the nature of kitsch as a category of material culture. I also claimed that revealing this secret history would alter our assumptions about the development...
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 53 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Hopkins Studies in Modernism
Series Editor Byline: Douglas Mao, Series Editor