Of Sabbaticals Past and Research Future: The Poetess and Affect

I have been away from Tinsel in February for much too long, immersed in new classes on the Great War that should have been making their way here.  But I return to continue the thread begun earlier of periodicals and poetry– and even, to some degree, impersonality.

In summer 2015  I am again slated to teach my online course called Modernism, Poetry, and Periodicals, which I first did a few years ago as part of UMW’s Online Learning Initiative.  The experience I had in that course in some ways sparked my interest in the poetess.  I had framed the course in part like this:

You may think of Modernism as a specific time, aesthetic, practice, ideology, set of socio-historical circumstances, etc.—and I could certainly attempt to provide you with that semi-stable definition.  But the study of the little magazine Poetry offers us a chance to come at Modernism differently, to experience the debates and changes essentially emergently rather than wholly in retrospect.  Let’s think of our intellectual approach as something closer to archeology, using Poetry and the MJP as our dig site: what can we construct or learn or intuit about Modernism, or more specifically Modern poetry, based on the evidence we excavate from the little magazine’s issues?  What kind of insight to a culture or people (editors, poets, reviewers, publishers) can we get from print (digital) artifact rather than ethnographic observation?

Well, I meant it, but in retrospect I understand that I thought I had a good idea what they would find when they sifted in the digital archive.  To my surprise, though led along to some degree by readings I had identified myself, the class began to focus on poets and poems to which I had paid very little attention, many of them women poets, and to use that work to help shape the parameters of what they were calling Modernism.  Since then, my auto-didactic journey into periodical studies has made me realize even more clearly that they were meeting some of the potentialities of the cover-to-cover initiative, not mining for the works of post-ordained greats.  And I began, too, to think about the role of these poets in the literary debates, culture, and output of the time– specifically, I wondered about the twentieth-century manifestations of what I had thought of mostly as a nineteenth-century phenomenon (or problem): the poetess.


Fast forward, Fall 2014: sabbatical a distant memory of yoga pants and reading time, and the Modernist Studies Association conference on the horizon, for which I had registered for a seminar called “The Feeling(s) of Modernism,” led by Claire Barber and Meghan Marie Hammond, with special guests Todd Cronan and Angus Fletcher.  Confession: I’m not extremely interested in the study of affect to the degree that it bleeds into cognitive theories and empiricism–indeed, I’m not extremely interested in bringing science to literary studies at all.  But it was a fantastic seminar with many brilliant participants (thank you, everyone!), and it gave me an opportunity to begin working through some of my thoughts about the poetesses, the description of whom intersects in interesting ways with descriptions of affect (the body, gender, agency, artist-audience relationship, form).

Trusting that any soul happening upon this blog will handle my work with respect and honesty, and with the intention of re-igniting Tinsel as a fluid record of my work, I include here the short paper that was distributed to my seminar colleagues:

Scanlon, MSA 14 seminar