New Materialism and Late Modernist Poetry

BookNew Materialism and Late Modernist Poetry

New Materialism and Late Modernist Poetry

Clemson University Press


January 1st, 2023





First appearing in the social sciences in the last decade, the New Materialism offers a fresh way of looking at the ways in which humanity views its relationship to the material world. This study picks up on those key insights, analyzing works that challenge the anthropocentric worldview that has defined Western thinking for millennia. Poetry drawn from the period known as Late Modernism (roughly 1930s-1970s) is examined, with particular attention paid to the ways in which the authors anticipate New Materialist perspectives. The authors include influential figures representing various anglophone traditions. Special attention is paid to the long poems of each writer: Hugh MacDiarmid’s “On a Raised Beach,” Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead, David Jones’s The Anathemata, Melvin Tolson’s Harlem Gallery, Louis Zukofsky’s “A,” and Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems. A concluding chapter briefly looks ahead to the persistence of materialist thinking in a key Postmodernist text: Armand Schwerner’s The Tablets. As New Materialism teaches, and these texts demonstrate, a renewed reckoning of humanity’s interaction with the material world can help engender a greater self-awareness that humanity is not the only, or best, measure of the universe.

Author Information

A past US Fulbright Scholar, Joe Moffett, Ph.D., is Dean of Arts, English, and Humanities at Oklahoma City Community College. His monographs include Mysticism in Postmodernist Long Poems (Lehigh UP, 2015), Understanding Charles Wright (South Carolina UP, 2008), and The Search for Origins in the Twentieth-Century Long Poem (West Virginia UP, 2007). He also served as guest editor for Genre: Forms of Discourse and his articles have appeared in publications such as Literature Interpretation Theory, The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, The Explicator, ANQ, Notes on Contemporary Literature, The North American Journal of Welsh Studies, and Southern Literary Journal.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Introduction: New
Materialism, Late Modernism, and the Long Poem
1: “The Loneliness, the Independence, of Stones”: Hugh MacDiarmid’s “On a Raised
Beach” (1934)
Chapter 2: Thing-Power in
Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead
Chapter 3: Objects of Faith in David Jones’s The Anathemata (1952)
Chapter 4: Melvin B. Tolson’s Harlem
Gallery (1965) and Art as Meta-Object
5: The Persistence of “Unseasonable Forms”: Louis Zukofsky’s “A” (1978) and Charles
The Maximus Poems (1983)
Conclusion: Postmodernism
and Vibrant Matter in Armand Schwerner’s The
Tablets (1999)