Emphasizing the diversity of twentieth-century collage practices, Rona Cran's book explores the role that it played in the work of Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O'Hara, and Bob Dylan. For all four, collage was an important creative catalyst, employed cathartically, aggressively, and experimentally. Collage's catalytic effect, Cran argues, enabled each to overcome a potentially destabilizing crisis in representation. Cornell, convinced that he was an artist and yet hampered by his inability to draw or paint, used collage to gain access to the art world and to show what he was capable of given the right medium. Burroughs' formal problems with linear composition were turned to his advantage by collage, which enabled him to move beyond narrative and chronological requirement. O'Hara used collage to navigate an effective path between plastic art and literature, and to choose the facets of each which best suited his compositional style. Bob Dylan's self-conscious application of collage techniques elevated his brand of rock-and-roll to a level of heightened aestheticism. Throughout her book, Cran shows that to delineate collage stringently as one thing or another is to severely limit our understanding of the work of the artists and writers who came to use it in non-traditional ways.
"Rona Cran’s study of this highly experimental technique - particularly its evolution in late modernism and early postmodernism - is rendered in clear and provocative language. Her book unfolds as artistically as a collage, the discovery apparent in the telling." - Timothy Gray, CUNY - College of Staten Island
"a thoughtful set of related essays on an American quartet – collagist and box-maker extraordinaire Joseph Cornell, novelist William Burroughs, poet Frank O’Hara, and finally Bob Dylan, the ongoing question as to whether the latter is best described as poet, musician, multi-media, or sui generis artist being one that Rona Cran answers more convincingly than most." - Geoff Ward, Cambridge Quarterly
"Cran, in effect, uses her impressionistic interpretation of selected artworks as a way of curating an exhibition-like concept in book form." -Kevin J. Hunt, Journal of American Studies
"Rona Cran’s Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture: Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara, and Bob Dylan' revitalizes the concept of collage by considering its role in capturing lived experience and its ability to integrate various mediums into one embodied encounter […] Through its interdisciplinary approach to collage, Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture appeals to a wide array of scholarly audiences and might have some attraction even for a general readership. Employing principles of visual art in textual analyses of prose and poetry, both literary and musical, the project leans in the direction of literary studies. However, the inclusion of popular culture movements including Dylan’s folk music and Burroughs’s connection to the Beat movement might lend itself to popular audiences who have a keen interest in countercultural movements." - Sarah Nolan, Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature