A Poem: Historical Poetics and the Problem of Exemplarity

December 13-15, 2016.

Co-hosted by the Writing and Society Research Centre and the Centre for Modernism Studies Australia
UNSW, Randwick (Dec 13) and Western Sydney University, Bankstown Campus (Dec 14-15)

Keynote speakers

Justin Clemens (Melbourne)
David Nowell Smith (UEA)
Meredith Martin (Princeton)

Most studies of poetry, whether historically or theoretically inclined, tend to reserve close attention for exemplary poems – works that in some way embody and make tangible the theoretical propositions or historical narrative being elaborated. The recent emergence of ‘historical poetics’ has challenged the old opposition of history and theory by focussing attention on the historicity of prosodic theories. If, as critics in this field variously assert, historical poetics can restore the historical thinking that poems do, are we destined only to restore the thinking of those poems that exemplify the claims the critic hopes to make? Might we end up looking only at the reflection of our methodological apparatus rather than at that which is particular (or historical) in the poem? The central aim of this symposium is to test the notion of historical poetics against the idea of the individual poem. We will examine how the individual poem presents challenges both for a historical understanding of poetic form and for a formalist understanding of poetry’s history.

Download the symposium program.

Post-war American Poetics

Mark Byron (Sydney): East – West Riprap: Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End as Alluvial History

Jennifer Crone (Sydney): ‘Passion and Form’: Louise Glück’s ‘Mock Orange’

Chris Oakey (UNSW): Ron Silliman’s ‘Albany’ and the Question of Exemplarity

Chair: Sean Pryor (UNSW)


David Nowell Smith (UEA): The single artificer of the world / Makes nothing happen: On Historical Poetics

Chair: Ben Etherington(WSU)

Modernist Poetics

Elizabeth Pender (Sydney): Exemplarity vs. Quotation: The Limits of Close Reading

James Jiang ( Melbourne ): Historicity, Periodicity, Rhetoricity: Wallace Stevens’ Poetics of Copia

Christian Gelder (UNSW): ‘A course in mathematics would not be wasted on a poet’: William Carlos Williams’ Paterson and the Mathematical Imagination

Chair: Alix Beeston (Sydney)

Inheritances, Limits, Forms

Alys Moody (Macquarie): Ping, Or, Exemplarity at the Limits of Poetry

Toby Fitch (Sydney): The Exemplary Poem is A Fluke: Chris Edwards’ Mistranslation of Mallarmé’s Un Coup de dés

Ann Vickery (Deakin): ‘[T]hinking of time and typing’: Travel Exhaustion in Martin Johnston’s In Transit: A Sonnet Square

Chair: Hazel Smith (WSU)

Orality and Writing

Ben Etherington (WSU ): ‘The Liquid Negro Language of the South’: Claude McKay’s Exemplary Doggerel

Paul Magee (Canberra): Composing a poem someone else wrote

Sean Pryor (UNSW): We Never Had Paris: Hope Mirlees and Modernist Poetics

Chair: Meredith Martin (Princeton)


Justin Clemens (Melbourne): First Fruits of a Barron Field

Chair: Matt McGuire (WSU)

Australian Poetics

Michael Farrell (Melbourne): Unbeautiful Relations: The Turns of ‘Waltzing Matilda’

Ivor Indyk (WSU): How Radical is Radical?

Sam Moginie (Sydney): ‘Four Heads’: Genre and the Conceptual in Australian Poetry

Chair: Kate Fagan (WSU)

Contemporary Poetics

Andrew Brooks (UNSW ): The poem as: restaurants, yoga mats, poems, former boyfriends or girlfriends, wives and husbands (and their photographs)

Holly Isemonger (WSU): Unassuming and Furtive and Stiff and Absurd: Pleasure and Genre in a Poem by Matthew Welton

Astrid Lorange (UNSW): The Exemplary Poem is the Non-Poem

Chair: Chris Conti (WSU)

Convenors and Contact

Ben Etherington (b.etherington@westernsydney.edu.au)
Sean Pryor (s.pryor@unsw.edu.au)

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