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Lecture 18

ENGL 40761 Lecture 18: American Culture as Collage 3-30-17 class notes reznikoff

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ENGL 40761
Fredman Stephen

American Culture as Collage 30 March, 2017 Charles Reznikoff: 1894-1976 • Part of the movement of objectivism, which used imagist techniques, like those of Pound, but applied to the working class current culture—immigrants, the poor, farmers o “Objectivists” first labeled as such by Louis Zukofsky in 1931 o Like the folk music singers, people in 1960s thought they were long dead, but as contemporary interest grew, they were re-discovered o Another objectivist: George Oppen, introduced Reznikoff at a 1974 reading • Reznikoff originally studied journalism, but then law. He lost a legal case on purpose to free himself up to write poetry and take on odd jobs, which included defining terms for a legal dictionary • Studied the testimony of working class people between 1885-1915, which became the basis for his books o “Documentary poetry,” poetry as history ▪ Reznikoff was a dedicated historian, and this is a piece of history written for the powerless, illiterate and often voiceless people, whose stories would not otherwise be told or taken seriously Testimony • Undercurrent of neglect, malice, lacks a basic respect and care for humanity and human dignity • Within sections, cases are very similar, so people are always making the same mistakes, doing the same things, following a pattern of behavior and psychology • Incidents are true stories, drawn from real testimonies • Address many of the same themes and focus on the same people as the Anthology of American Folk Music—for, about and by the poor underclass, often talking about murder, love, work, theft, fate, human cruelty and ignorance. o A combination of individual experience and a generalized template (repetition gives a picture of society as a whole) o Luminous details, teach us something about their/our culture through the short descriptions of the incidents o Reznikoff and Smith both interested in a series of aesthetic qualities, like “rawness” and authenticity prese
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