The Matter of Capital, Christopher Nealon, Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2011; The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins, and the Avant-Garde, Ruth Jennison, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012

In: Historical Materialism
Alex Niven St John’s College Oxford

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In The Matter of Capital, Christopher Nealon offers a distinctive revisionary account of American poetry written in the wake of the ideological retreats of Ezra Pound and W.H. Auden around the time of the Second World War. Nealon argues that American verse of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries was profoundly influenced by an unfolding context of capitalist development and crisis, in ways that have not been fully accounted for in orthodox accounts of recent literary history. Ruth Jennison’s The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins, and the Avant-Garde seeks similarly to highlight the centrality of leftist critiques of capitalism in modern American poetry. Her focus is the Objectivist group of poets, in particular Louis Zukofsky, a Jewish-American Marxist often regarded as the major successor to Pound in the interwar years. Jennison applies the theory of ‘combined and uneven development’ to the 1930s work of Zukofsky and his circle.

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