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Distant Reading: Performance, Readership, and Consumption in Contemporary Poetry (Modern & Contemporary Poetics) Hardcover – March 13, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0817314422 ISBN-10: 0817314423 Edition: 1st Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern & Contemporary Poetics
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University Alabama Press; 1st Edition edition (March 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817314423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817314422
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,599,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Middleton investigates the manifold events that are usually conglomerated together under the name of reading: interactions of voice and text, of phonology, physiology and psychology; the sociology of the poetry reading; the ways that contemporary technologies connect and disperse a poem's readership. These complexities are exactly what make poetry interesting. Distant Reading promises to be a groundbreaking study of contemporary poetry—and it's a pleasure to read." —Bob Perelman, author of The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History

Book Description

Distant Reading considers poetry as performance, offers new insights into its popularity, and proposes a new history of its origins. It also explores related issues concerning the reception of poetry, the impact of the computer on how we read poetry, the persistence of the letter "I" in poems by avant-garde poets, the strangeness of the line-break as a demand on the reader's attention, and the idea of the reader as consumer. These themes are connected by a historically contextualized and theoretically sophisticated discussion of contemporary American and British poets continuing to work in the modernist tradition. The introductory essay establishes a new methodology that transforms close reading into what Middleton calls "distant reading," interpretive reading that acknowledges the distances that texts travel from their point of composition to readers in other geographical and historical locations. It indicates that poetic innovation is often driven by a desire on the part of the poet to make this distance do cultural work in the meanings that the poem generates. Ultimately, Distant Reading treats poetry as a cultural practice that is always situated within specific sites of performance--recited on stage, displayed in magazines, laid out on a page, scrolled on the computer screen--rather than as a transcendent cloud of meaning tethered only to its words.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Baker on July 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
Peter Middleton proposes the concept of 'distant reading' as an antidote to the practice of 'close reading' which, he argues, is far out of date. That's because close readings involve narrowly conceived literary political debates and restricted canons of examples. Close readings limit the available languages and concepts for discussing how a poem's meaning may appear.
The practice of 'close reading' is misguided because one cannot locate the meaning of a contemporary poem in a singular, solitary encounter between one printed manifestation of the text and one sensitive reader. Rather, a contemporary poem produces its meaning across networks of readers, performance, intertexts, and visual presentation.
In fact, he argues, a poem is never "finished." A poem is the totality of its ongoing historical activity. Much of that activity will never be recorded in writing and could not be known in its entirety.
The 'work' of a poem is not some meaning or assertion contained in the uttered text. Rather, a poem's work is the entire field of interaction in which performance occurs.
Performance extends, complicates, and sometimes transforms a poem's meaning. Oral performance makes possible an 'extended semantic repertoire' in which poetry fulfills more of its potentialities. "Each poetry reading represents a collective effort to create something out of written texts that is still unarticulated," he says.
I wish this book had included an audio CD of contemporary poets reading their recent work. Given the book's emphasis on performance the inclusion of audio material would be logical and helpful.
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