Rachel Galvin

Year: 2012   
Affiliations: Humanities 

Rachel Galvin

Project Description

Rachel Galvin received her PhD in comparative literature from Princeton in 2010, together with a graduate certificate in media and modernity (2006). She has already published 11 articles in English, French, and Spanish in a wide variety of journals, has written extensively for Humanities, the journal of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and she has also published a series of reviews. A working poet as well as a scholar, her poetry has appeared in periodicals that include The New Yorker, the Colorado Review, and many others. Her collection of poems, Lost Property, was a finalist for the 2011 National Poetry Series. The list of her poetry readings and presentations is far too extensive even to contemplate listing.

Her thesis at Princeton, Poetry and the Press in a Time of War (1936–1945), which won the Sidonie Clauss dissertation prize, argues that print journalism offers a model for wartime poetry during the period spanning the Spanish Civil War through World War II. In it, she seeks to revise the conventional critical narrative of the Modernist period by identifying what she calls a return to rhetoric, something she views as a “counter-move,” given the widespread call for modern poetry to “strangle” the rhetoric of the 19th century. The study brings together a set of civilian writers who were contemporaries writing about the same wars, but who have yet to be considered as a group: Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, Raymond Queneau, and César Vallejo. She demonstrates that these poets unexpectedly employ tropes and schemes from classical rhetoric in wartime texts that engage with the public language of journalism. She is in the process of reshaping the project by adding a chapter on Marianne Moore and a concluding chapter that traces the return to rhetoric in experimental American poetry of the post-9/11 period. She demonstrates that contemporary poetry explicitly looks back to Modernist war poetry and similarly draws on the resources of rhetoric as a mode of sociality. Ultimately, she believes, examining the relationship between poetry and journalism during the historical watershed of the period 1936–1945 is a way to frame our understanding of the complexities of 21st-century literature’s relation to current events.

While at Hopkins, Galvin will complete revisions to her thesis and will begin a second project: Hybrid Americas: Poetry of the 20th Century. Hybrid America theorizes a trans-American poetics that accounts for the striking changes that took place from Canada to the Caribbean to the Southern Cone during a time of intense geopolitical and cultural shifts. A central premise of this study is that American poetry of the last century must be understood in hemispheric terms. In it she will explore how poets interpret the idea of “the Americas” as lands and nations, arguing that their poetics develop through dialogue across linguistic and geographical distances. In taking a transnational approach to the poetry of the post-war era, Galvin draws on postcolonial and ethnic studies, cultural studies, and sociology in the exploration of procedural writing, modern epics, and concepts of cultural hybridity as they affect literary discourse. The book is envisioned to have five chapters that will focus on poetic innovations emerging from the crucible of political, cultural, and social change of the 20th century: (1) the post-epic; (2) exchange, collaboration, and translation; (3) the demotic register; (4) the prose poem; and (5) the use of intertextual or hybrid methods. The work is rooted in formal poetic analysis but crucial to her analytic strategies is a concern with how language intersects with ideas of nationhood; shifts among world powers; utopianism; experiments in representation; and changing ideas about the place of literature in society. In effect, she wishes to view poetry as a rhetorical transaction and an “instrument of ethical paideia,” to borrow terms proposed by Jonathan Culler.

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