Olesya Bondarenko. “Examining the Glass and the Frame”

Olesya Bondarenko
Panel II: Narratives in Old Media (21. June 2013)

Examining the Glass and the Frame: Politics and Subjectivity in Rae Armantrout’s Poetry


Contemporary American poetry is characterized by a noticeable preoccupation with issues of society, power and ideology. Rae Armantrout, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, says in an interview about her generation of poets: “We [...] grew up in the era of Vietnam and Watergate. We grew up skeptical. We don’t think language is a clear window through which the world can be presented. Or, if language is a window, we’ve learned it’s best to examine the glass and the frame.” The case-study seeks to analyze the intricate relations between language, politics and subjectivity in Rae Armantrout’s writing. Through close reading of her poems and poetry-related essays, it addresses the ‘theoretical turn’ occurring in American poetry which is responsible for its growing engagement with social and political matters as well as a significant shift in modes of poetic subjectivity. Rae Armantrout’s poetry is marked by the very same concern for subjectivity that dominated much of poststructuralist theoretical thought: She constructs her lyric subject, sometimes in seemingly conventional forms, only to dismantle the very linguistic devices involved in the process of this construction as well as to reveal the regimes of power behind it. Such dismantling requires very close attention to the subjective as the “power struggles begin in the public sphere and are reenacted in private.” It also creates a lot of tension in Armantrout’s texts as certain subjective experiences (such as, for example, a young woman’s first love modeled on Hollywood romances) are rendered illegitimate in the course of the scrutiny but still cannot be alienated and remain important for the subject.


 Collected Prose
Rae Armantrout
Rae Armantrout
 My Advantage
Rae Armantrout
Rae Armantrout
 The Fit
Rae Armantrout
 A Chat with Pulitizer Prize Winner in Poetry Rae Armantrout
Rae Armantrout
Charles Bernstein
 French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Co Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States
Francois Cusset
 Notes on Metamodernism
Timotheus Vermeulen; Robin van den Akker
 Thinking Again: Political Poetry
Mark Wallace
 The Turn to Language in the 1960s
Barrett Watten