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Chad Bennett

Core FacultyPh.D., 2011, Cornell University

Assistant Professor in the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts
Chad Bennett



Twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature and culture, poetry and poetics, queer theory, gender and sexuality studies, film and media studies, and creative writing.


Research Interests: Twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature and culture, poetry and poetics, queer theory, gender and sexuality studies, film and media studies, and creative writing.

Relevant Courses: E344L: Hollywood Babylon, E379R: Gossip and Twentieth-Century Poetry, E379R: New York School Poets and Artists


WGS 335 • Gossip And 20th-Century Poetry

46040 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm PAR 302
(also listed as E 379R)

E 379R  l  Gossip and Twentieth-Century Poetry

Instructor:  Bennett, C

Unique #:  34820

Semester:  Spring 2016

Cross-lists:  WGS 335

Restrictions:  n/a

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisite: Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.

Description: “Gossip exalts in poetry,” declares Robert Frost. This might seem a strange claim, since gossip’s ostensibly frivolous talk about others appears at odds with common conceptions of poetry as serious, solitary expression. Yet from the talk of the town to the modern gossip column, and from loose lips sink ships to don’t ask, don’t tell, American poets have persistently engaged gossip as a rhetorical model and a source of inspiration, turning to the strategies of idle talk in part to address shifting ideas of privacy and publicity, and self and community, and in part to reinvigorate poetic practice.

Starting with the assumption that poetic gossip thus provides a rich vantage from which to consider twentieth-century American poetry and culture, this seminar proposes two main lines of inquiry. First: in a digital era marked by an extraordinary and increasing ability—and desire—to spread gossip rapidly and widely, what can a rich tradition of poetic gossip tell us about the pleasures, uses, and risks of idle talk? And second: how can the history and style of gossip—especially insofar as it has been associated with marginalized identities (particularly women, gay men, and the working class), linked to mass culture and celebrity, and bound up with technologies from the telephone to Twitter—help us to better understand the forms and social practices of modern and contemporary poetry?

We will explore these questions by studying poems that represent gossip, poems that enact gossip, and poems that adopt aspects of gossip’s style. We will further consider gossip about poets and their poems, and how it might shape the reception of their work. We will also, by way of comparison with gossip, pay attention to forms of everyday and intimate talk more often associated with poetry, such as conversation and confession. Finally, we will think more broadly about gossip’s value as a metaphor for different kinds of collaborative and multi-voiced poetics, and for various strategies of unofficial meaning-making at work in twentieth-century poetry and beyond.

Texts: We will read and discuss poems by David Antin, John Ashbery, Gwendolyn Brooks, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Edgar Lee Masters, Harryette Mullen, Frank O’Hara, Ezra Pound, D. A. Powell, James Schuyler, Juliana Spahr, Gertrude Stein, and others.

Secondary reading will include essays on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics, scholarship on gossip in the social sciences and the humanities, legal accounts of gossip, and (in the form of reviews, interviews, letters, journals, memoirs, and biographical excerpts) juicy instances of poetry-world gossip.

Requirements & Grading: Final grades will be based on participation (both in class discussions and in short, weekly, written responses) (25%), a six-page essay and revision (25%), and a ten-page research essay (50%). Attendance is mandatory; more than three absences may result in a reduction of the final grade.

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