Poetry and Popular Culture
This introductory chapter presents the book's rationale, which consists of several overarching theses. First, it argues that ordinary readers of poetry are more self-aware, perceptive, creative, and socially engaged than historians and literary critics have generally assumed. Ordinary readers were initially viewed as unreflective, affect-driven and often a female demographic, and misguided when it came to issues of taste and poetry's purpose in the world. It was not until Joseph Harrington's so-called “poetry wars” of the 1930s that the high and low perceptions of American poetry began to reform. Second, the poetry these ordinary readers consumed was in fact more aesthetically and culturally complex than mainstream literary histories. The third point states that the culture of popular verse was not self-sufficient but influenced the work of now-authoritative modernist writers, as well as the development of popular culture more broadly. The book's analysis is generally driven by the relationship between the commercially produced text and the reader.
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