Abstract

Abstract:

The US poet and psychiatrist Merrill Moore (1903–1957) wrote upwards of 100,000 sonnets in his lifetime. For literary scholars, the super prolific Moore is perhaps “interesting chiefly as a subject for statistics,” in an early reviewer’s phrase, but recourse to computational methods may actually obscure what is most instructive about Moore’s example for literary studies today. This articles uses the narrow occasion of Moore’s transatlantic reception to reframe the relationship between lyric form and the poetic archive. Reading for form at the scale of 100,000 sonnets requires a shift in analytical emphasis, from a sometimes-limiting focus on poems as textual objects, to a more robust theorization of poetic technique. Convening recent currents in literary and media studies, I demonstrate how the concept of poetic technique, by mediating between individual poems and massive archives, teaches us to read in the service of a more capacious history of lyric writing as social practice.

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