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Book Cover for: Word of Mouth: Gossip and American Poetry, Chad Bennett

Word of Mouth: Gossip and American Poetry

Chad Bennett

The first study of modern and contemporary poetry's vibrant exchange with gossip.

Can the art of gossip help us to better understand modern and contemporary poetry? Gossip's ostensible frivolity may seem at odds with common conceptions of poetry as serious, solitary expression. But in Word of Mouth, Chad Bennett explores the dynamic relationship between gossip and American poetry, uncovering the unexpected ways that the history of the modern lyric intertwines with histories of sexuality in the twentieth century.

Through nuanced readings of Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Frank O'Hara, and James Merrill--poets who famously absorbed and adapted the loose talk that swirled about them and their work--Bennett demonstrates how gossip became a vehicle for alternative modes of poetic practice. By attending to gossip's key role in modern and contemporary poetry, he recognizes the unpredictable ways that conventional understandings of the modern lyric poem have been shaped by, and afforded a uniquely suitable space for, the expression of queer sensibilities.

Evincing an ear for good gossip, Bennett presents new and illuminating queer contexts for the influential poetry of these four culturally diverse poets. Word of Mouth establishes poetry as a neglected archive for our thinking about gossip and contributes a crucial queer perspective to current lyric studies and its renewed scholarly debate over the status and uses of the lyric genre.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publish Date: May 15th, 2018
  • Pages: 344
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.90in - 5.80in - 1.20in - 1.25lb
  • EAN: 9781421425375
  • Categories: Semiotics & TheoryModern - 20th CenturyLGBTQ+

About the Author

Bennett, Chad: - Chad Bennett is an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.
Praise for this book
Chad Bennett's Word of Mouth: Gossip and American Poetry is so careful and decorous, it is beyond reproach. The writing is groomed, the research meticulous, the choice of subjectsGertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Frank O'Hara, James Merrillstrikingly diverse. By patiently unpacking a crowd of difficult poems, Bennett shows how twentieth-century poetries have used gossip as mode to expand the formal and rhetorical possibilities of lyric.
--Christopher Schmidt, City University of New York, Contemporary Literature
Chad Bennett's intuition that gossip is not inconsequential but central to poetry and that both gossip and poetry are eccentrically central to life, marks an ironic, mature, and observant mind. . . . His rhetoric is unaggressive, but his point is provocative. The point is that although not all gossip is queer, there is something potentially queer about gossip itself.
--Andrew DuBois, University of Toronto, American Literary History
In a deeply researched discussion of poetic, queer, and rhetorical theory, Bennett argues that "ideas of lyric, gossip, and queerness" reveal "new and illuminating contexts" (3).
Word of Mouth is a substantial and important achievement; it's also a great pleasure, promising to be read and admired. Beautifully written, informed by historical poetics, and offering a powerful queer analysis of US poetics of the twentieth century, the book goes beyond the sum of its parts to present a fascinating way of thinking about the reading and writing of modern poetry.
--Gillian White, author of Lyric Shame: The "Lyric" Subject of Contemporary American Poetry