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Figuring the Lyric Across Media

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Organizer: Zoe Bursztajn-Illingworth

Co-Organizer: Frances Grace Fyfe

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Poetry’s complex relationship to film and television is “news that stays news:” from Chaplin discussing his desire to read Keats by an Italian lake in 1920 to T.S. Eliot references appearing in Oppenheimer and Berryman’s “Dream Song 29” lending a title to the finale of Succession within the last year. The same could be said of poets discovering inspiration and provocation in film and television. Rather than viewing these media as rivals for limited cultural capital, this seminar seeks to understand the embeddedness of narrative and lyric forms through comparative methods, especially the application of lyric theory to film and television, and film theory to modern and contemporary poetry. What do collaborations between lyric and narrative modes teach us? How might the lyric’s relationship to film and television pose new representational strategies for the Anthropocene and a digitally connected society?

The lyric, even as it may collaborate with narrative, offers a model of literacy through which we might seek such non-narrative or disjunctive forms of self, speaker, and addressee. For instance, Amit Chaudhuri rejects the idea of storytelling as a resource for anti-Enlightenment politics, and champions forms of poetic elision that have long existed in non-Western cultures. A parallel critique of narrative comes from Simon Critchley, who criticizes a sense of the self as an ongoing, continuously retold story and proposes instead an “episodic concept of the self, one that is more transient, fleeting and discontinuous.” Extending Jonathan Culler’s call to update genre according to historically contingent methods and considering lyric’s relevance in the twenty-first century, this seminar asks: How does the lyric shape and become shaped by cinema, television, and other frequently narrative media?

We invite papers that deal broadly with the lyric across media, including, but not limited to, film and television. We welcome papers that consider (1) the representation of lyric poetry on screen, (2) lyric theory as a lens through which to interpret film and television, (3) how film and television shape modern and contemporary poetry. We are also open to papers that discuss non-narrative cinema as a lens for lyric reading and papers from those interested in lyric poetry and theory’s intersection with audio and digital media. Papers may analyze non-Anglophone poetry, film, and television. In doing so, we hope to consider how the situation of lyric utterance might be both transformed and revealed as it traverses the media landscape. 

With the humanities in crisis, this seminar considers what looking for lyric figures in extraliterary forms might teach us about the objects and methods of literary and cultural study. We ask what filmic analysis has to learn from literary studies and vice-versa, gesturing toward a double enchantment and energization of interdisciplinary study.

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