New Formalisms & the Lyric in History

University of Michigan, Michigan Union, Anderson Room, January 19, 2001

"New Formalisms" will examine the recent critical turn toward formalist readings of poetry in literary studies. At present, such a turn is polymorphous. The different movements have been variously labeled "new formalism" or "cultural neoformalism" to distinguish them from earlier formalisms (Russian or New Critical), but there is no real consensus as to the methodologies or critical aims of this interpretive mode. And yet, this turn seems pervasive. Indeed, the new formalisms have arisen concurrently with a recent revival of interest, on the part of contemporary poets, in investigating received poetic forms. The conference aims to initiate a dialogue between practitioners (and skeptics) of new formalisms within various critical contexts. Papers will both pursue formal readings of poetry, ranging from Shakespeare to Elizabeth Bishop, and explore theoretical questions about the turn to formalism at this moment in history and criticism.

Conference Program :

8:30 Coffee

9:00 AM Introductory Remarks, Amanda Watson;

9:15 AM Keynotes: Marjorie Levinson, "The Picture of the Mind Revives Again", Heather Dubrow, "Who's in, who's out': Lyrics, Critics, and Their Audiences"

10:30-10:45 AM Break

10:45 AM Panel 1: Forms of Intimacy, Chair: Michael Schoenfeldt

So they stay
Like to like
In terrible isolation

Like to like
In terrible intimacy
And unfusing
-- William Carlos Williams, "The Marriage of Souls"

Speakers: Adela Pinch, "Intimacy, Address, and the Problem of Thinking About Others in Nineteenth-Century Poetry"; Angela Balla, "Property Laws: Desire, Possession, and Disputation in Donne's Lyrics"; James Schiffer, "The Sonnets as (Anti)Narrative"

12:15 PM Lunch

10:30-10:45 AM Break

1:30 PM Panel 2: The Rage for Order, Chair: Elise Frasier

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.
-- Wallace Stevens, "The Idea of Order at Key West"

Speakers: Yopie Prins, "Ninteenth-Century Homers and the Hexameter Mania"; Amanda Watson, "Rhyme and the Memory of It"; Carla Mazzio, "Formally Challenged: Hamlet's Illness at Numbers"

2:45-3:00 Break

10:30-10:45 AM Break

3:00 PM Panel 3: The Vulnerability of Form, Chair: Jonathan Freedman

camouflagy thought flushed

out of the bush, seen vaguely as potential form, and
pursued, pursued and perceived, declared: the savored
form, the known possession, knowledge carnal knowledge:

the seizure, the satiation:
-- A.R. Ammons, "Sphere the Form of a Motion"

Speakers: Linda Gregerson, "Against Interpretation: Ben Jonson and Poetic Form"; Sadia Abbas, "Form and the Distractions of Ontology"; Timothy Bahti, "Beneath Formalism"; Richard Strier, "How Formalism Became a Dirty Word (And Why We Can't Do Without It)"

4:45 PM Closing remarks, Michael Schoenfeldt, Elise Frasier, Jonathan Freedman

The organizers of "New Formalisms" would like to thank the following organizations for their generous contributions and sponsorship: Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, Department of English, Office of the Vice President of Research, Office of the Provost, Center for European Studies, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and the Institute for the Humanities. Thanks also to Sadia Abbas, Angela Balla, Bill and Betty Ingram, Steven Mullaney, and Linda Gregerson.

Click here for information about upcoming Early Modern Colloquium events, including talks from Stephen Greenblatt, Carolyn Walker Bynum, Wendy Wall, and Dympna Callaghan, along with performances and lectures from the Royal Shakespeare Company.