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From Outlaw to Classic
Canons in American Poetry
Alan Golding

"Canon formation: that's been the focus of the largest issues in literary studies of the last decade. Alan Golding's book shows in fine detail how the idea of nationhood has repeatedly fueled our recurrent Culture Wars. In efforts to construct first an American poetry and later a modern poetry the aesthetes and the cultural politicians have been beating each other with stichs and strophes from the beginning. This book's sharp anatomy takes us from the first American anthologies right up to the newest industrial product, The Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry (1994). Readers of American poetry can't afford to miss Golding."—Robert von Hallberg, University of Chicago

From Outlaw to Classic presents a sweeping history of the forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, the American poetry canon. Students, scholars, critics, and poets will welcome this enlightening and impressively documented book.

Recent writings by critics and theorists on literary canons have dealt almost exclusively with prose; Alan Golding shows that, like all canons, those of American poetry are characterized by conflict. Choosing a series of varied but representative instances, he analyzes battles and contentions among poets, anthologists, poetry magazine editors, and schools of thought in university English departments. The chapters:

• present a history of American poetry anthologies
• compare competing models of canon-formation, the aesthetic (poet-centered) and the institutional (critic-centered)
• discuss the influence of the New Critics, emphasizing their status as practicing poets, their anti-nationalist reading of American poetry, and the landmark textbook, Understanding Poetry by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren
• examine the canonizing effects of an experimental "little magazine," Origin
• trace how the Language poets address, in both their theory and their method, the canonizing institutions and canonical assumptions of the age.

"I feel genuinely elated by this important historical study. Its revelations about canon formation and change in American poetry revise our perceptions of an astonishing range of materials—from anthologies of the eighteenth century, to little magazines of the 1950s, to the Language poetry of the 1990s. The lively clarity of Golding's style and argument will insure a broad audience."—Lynn Keller, University of Wisconsin

Alan Golding
is associate professor of English at the University of Louisville.

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Blue cover with light blue text

May 1995

LC: 94-024157 PS
264 pp., 6 x 9

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Paper $19.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-14604-7
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