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The Lyre Book

Modern Poetic Media

Redefines modern lyric poetry at the intersection of literary and media studies.

In The Lyre Book, Matthew Kilbane urges literary scholars to consider lyric not as a genre or a reading practice but as a media condition: the generative tension between writing and sound. In addition to clarifying issues central to the study of modern poetry—including its proximity to popular song, hallowed objecthood, and seeming autonomy from historical determination—this revisionary theory of lyric presents a new history of modern US poetry as one sonorous practice among many clamorous others.

Focusing on the mid-twentieth century, Kilbane traces the impact of new sound technologies on a diverse array of literary and musical works by Lorine Niedecker, Harry Partch, Louis and Celia Zukofsky, Sterling Brown, John Wheelwright, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Russell Atkins, and Helen Adam. Kilbane shows how literary critics can look to media history to illuminate poetry's social life, and how media scholars can read poetry for insight into the cultural history of technology. In this book, the lyric poem emerges as a sensitive barometer of technological change.

About the Author

Matthew Kilbane is an assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.

Endorsements

"This fantasia on the speaking lyre is a superbly researched, incisive study that offers new ways of considering one of the oldest questions for Western poetry: the relation of music to words. Matthew Kilbane's media history / theory approach underscores his focus on the social semantics of sounding."

- Charles Bernstein, author of Pitch of Poetry

"Erudite, eclectic, audacious, and splendidly written, The Lyre Book proceeds from the fact of lyric's essential intermediality—always already suspended between writing and sound—to stake a powerful claim for its interpretive centrality in charting the historical nuance of media change."

- Debra Rae Cohen, coeditor of Broadcasting Modernism

"A lyre's paradox animates this book. From ancient apostrophes to the lyre as both instrument and auditor, The Lyre Book explores the far reaches of intermedial writing, of actual lyres and of the soundings of poetry in its constantly evolving manifestations. Kilbane has given readers a disturbance in the field of lyric theory."

- Aldon Lynn Nielsen, author of The Inside Songs of Amiri Baraka

"In Matthew Kilbane's extraordinary book, 'intermediality' is a perennial and productive problem for lyric poetry (whose printed object continually evokes, but also withdraws from, sound and audition): the mark of a 'fallen' genre perpetually haunted by what it is not and what it may become. The startling polarities of Kilbane's theoretical insights and his intricate readings of what poems can tell us about the historical unfolding of the technical media may help us to understand why lyric poetry continues to resist definition as object and genre—and to accommodate new forms."

- Daniel Tiffany, author of My Silver Planet: A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch
Johns Hopkins University Press
Hopkins Studies in Modernism
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Hardback
February 27, 2024
$114.95 USD
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February 27, 2024
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