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This essay examines one unexpected point of contact between modernist poetics and slapstick film in the work of Marianne Moore. Specifically, in Moore’s unpublished and hitherto unknown review of Charlie Chaplin’s travel memoirs, we learn that Chaplin provided Moore with a blueprint for performing a self-effacing moral authority through virtuosic style. This connection helpsdevelop a more fundamental account of the comic in Moore, starting with the numerous clumsy, slapstick animalsin her poems and ending with the authoritative yet amusing personality she performed as a celebrity poet late in her career. Along the way, the essay proposes theaddition of “slapstick verse” to the modernist prosodic toolshed and reframes recent discussions of Moore’s queer celibacy and agency around descriptive style.
Submitted Dec 3, 2014