Based on the assumption that the concept of the 'public' as understood in American Pragmatism is better suited to literary and historical studies than is Habermas's "public sphere," this study investigates how public poetry pursues a public role not as a given but as a challenge and often an illusion. It traces a tradition of public poetry in the U.S. arising from the (neo-)classical tradition at the time of the American Revolution and its idea of poetry's public function in a republic to poetry as non-individualistic expression in the 19th century, to political poetry in the 1930s and '60s all the way to contemporary poets responding to September 11 and the war in Iraq. Offering nuanced readings of poems that reveal their public commitment and its problems at specific historical moments, the study bridges the gap between literary analysis and cultural studies and establishes a place for poetry in American Studies.
Pursue the Illusion: Problems of Public Poetry in America
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