Marianne Moore reads the Bible

Winter 2019

The Humanities Center welcomes Dr. Peter Howarth, Senior Lecturer in Modern Literature and National Teaching Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, as our Faith & Imagination guest lecturer on Friday, April 12th. There will be two events held during the day, the first being a book discussion and the second, a lecture open to both faculty and interested students at 3:00 PM in the EIZ Theater (B192 JFSB). We hope you’ll join us.

Title: “Marianne Moore reads the Bible”

Marianne Moore is one of America’s great modernist poets. She was also one of America’s great revisers, changing or deleting the texts of her poems time and again, to the despair of her editors and the consternation of her admirers. As the full historical extent of her work finally becomes available, some of her editors charge that Moore was wilfully suppressing her difficult work to make herself more popular for audiences with short attention spans; others think she had an evolutionary concept of the poem adapting itself to new circumstances. But going back to the poems’ first drafts reveals another possible origin: the Bible class in the Higher Criticism that she was taking concurrently. If Scripture was inspired in layers, not only by hearing and writing but through recollection, re-transmission, revision and re-editing, might poetry too depend on similar re-processing in order to stay poetry? Might her modernist poetics be offering an alternative account of what inspiration means, in which textual criticism can be incorporated rather than denied?

 

Peter Howarth is an Associate Professor at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of British Poetry in the Age of Modernism (Cambridge, 2006) and The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry (2011). A National Teaching Fellow, his articles have appeared in PMLA and Textual Practice, and he is a regular reviewer for the London Review of Books. He is currently finishing The Poetry Circuit, which charts how live performance changed modern poetry, as well as being assistant Priest at St George The Martyr, Holborn, London.

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