Project Title: Global Poetry: Chicago Modernism at the World Scale

Project Description:

“Global Poetry” explores the national and international impact of one of the Midwest’s most important literary magazines: Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Founded in Chicago in 1912 by Harriet Monroe, the journal became a prominent force in the expanding field of American poetic modernism in the 1910s and 1920s. Historians of American modernism have documented the magazine’s role in shaping both the disposition and development of American poetry in this period, but also in helping to constitute the very boundaries of “modern” poetry. Missing from these accounts, however, is a global approach to understanding how the cultural reverberations set off by Poetry both emerged from, and altered, existing national and international fields of poetic production.


How did a magazine based outside of the alleged “center” of American literature (New York) come to gain a national prominence? Further, how did the journal help to transform poets otherwise viewed as decidedly “regional”—Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, Edgar Lee Masters—into “universalist” figures? What made the mid-western literary ethos these poets helped to create so portable and cosmopolitan? It was an ethos that traveled to other parts of the world as well, and the more ambitious part of our project considers the history of this process. That is, we plan to explore the diffusion of poems and poets associated with Poetry into China, France, Japan, and Latin America. How and why did literary audiences and fellow poets in these nations embrace the magazine, or the poets and styles it promoted? To what extent did it come to represent an avant-garde, cosmopolitan force? And how was its specific brand of cosmopolitanism configured against others?


In method, this project is distinguished by its mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches. There are already excellent historical accounts of “global modernism” that examine how various forms of modernist writing (e.g., the poetry of Harlem Renaissance writers or the Imagists) circulated transnationally. But whereas they rely heavily on close textual analysis and the narration of micro-histories, we supplement such approaches with computational methods that take advantage of rich bibliographic databases and full-text digital archives of modernist journals from many different regions. Using techniques such as text-mining and network analysis, which we have developed as part of a larger project called "Global Literary Networks," we hope to generate new historical accounts of Poetry that are better able to represent the truly global scale of Chicago modernism.

Organizer's Names: Hoyt Long, Richard Jean So

Organizer's Contact Information: hoytlong_at_uchicago.edu; richardjeanso_at_uchicago.edu

Organizer's Departmental and University Affiliation: East Asian Languages and Civilizations, English (University of Chicago)

Website: literarynetworks.uchicago.edu