Making extensive use of archival materials by Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, and Anne Sexton, Amanda Golden constructs a new narrative of the relationship between modernism and post-war poetry. While Golden situates her book among other materialist histories of modernism, she moves beyond examination of published works into a material consideration of a diversity of texts, including the poets’ marginalia and underlining in their personal copies of modernist texts. Her analysis supports her argument that modernism as a discourse emerges after the Second World War. Moving away from the prevailing focus on the poets’ confessional strategies, psychological subjects, and autobiographical content, Golden instead considers the dynamics of literary influence, the impact of the New Criticism, and the midcentury readings of such high modernists as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Her analysis suggests that modernism is not a discrete literary period but a discourse that is the result of institutionally situated processes. According to this narrative, reading and writing are intertwined and perhaps even indistinguishable processes, ones that incorporate the very bodily experiences of being in libraries and interacting with books. Situated within a larger rethinking of modernism, Golden’s study challenges accepted readings of the period and the texts that compose it and illustrates the continuing role of the midcentury poets in shaping and reshaping modernist discourse.
Table of contents to come.