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Michael David Chasar
Willamette University (Salem, OR 97301-3922)
Everyday Reading: U.S. Poetry and Popular Culture, 1880-1945

This project will bring to completion a book-length manuscript that will be the first extended critical study focusing on the culture of popular American poetry in the first half of the twentieth century. Combining cultural studies and book studies methodologies with recent poetry scholarship, I present and evaluate archives of heretofore unstudied material including scrapbooks of poetry assembled by ordinary readers, old-time radio poetry programs and fan letters sent to those shows, and advertising poems including the popular sets of rhyming Burma-Shave billboards that once lined U.S. highways. In considering this material and the ways in which popular verse saturated everyday life of this historical period more broadly, this study makes three major claims. First, the poetry of U.S. popular culture was more varied and more aesthetically complex than literary critics have traditionally assumed. Second, ordinary or untrained readers consumed this verse in more sophisticated and critical ways than scholars have imagined. Third, elite poets not only participated in this literary culture but saw in it potential artistic resources that the would integrate into their own art.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
American Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2011 – 7/31/2011