The Public Life of Poems


Panel organizer: Matthew Garrett, Wesleyan University


Recent years have seen a rich contextualization of early American and Atlantic prose forms. So although prose is infamous for being the kind of writing that does not have any place at all (prose, as Godzich and Kittay put it, has no place of its own but instead "assigns place"), early Americanists have worked hard to identify the significance of its social locations.

This panel asks about the place of poetry: specifically, poetry's function within public writing. What is the relationship between verse and public expression? To what extent, and in what conditions, is poetry especially amenable--or resistant--to commodification within the literary market? Why verse here and prose there?

Papers may examine any aspect of the public life of poems--from manuscript publication to re-issue in miscellany or anthology; from political polemic to the public expression of privacy; from devotional verses to advertising squibs; from the dilation of long poems to the compression of epigraphic ornamentation. Ideally, the panel will comprise three papers considering different aspects of the question between the 17th and 19th centuries, providing some sense of temporal and geographic sweep--and perhaps some hint of the historical career of verse as a literary institution.


Please send 250-word abstracts to Matthew Garrett at by Friday, September 7, 2012.