Poetry, or Elsewhere: Literature and Public Life in the Twenty-First Century

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Poetry, or Elsewhere: Literature and Public Life in the Twenty-First Century

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This project rejects a representational “urban poetics,” i.e. reading cities in poems, taking up at least four primary urban sites: Plaza 88, now called Shops at New West, in New Westminster, British Columbia; Poet’s Walk at Citicorp Plaza in downtown Los Angeles, California, and finally the Wynwood Arts District, in Miami, Florida. Along with these public spaces, I read Gwendolyn Brooks’ long poem In the Mecca (1968) with the architectural critique Learning from Las Vegas (1972), by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. There is no canon or other means of ensemble recognition for public poetry installations and this dissertation reckons with their unrecognizability within broader contemporary public art practice as well as the political and socioeconomic contexts that constitute each text’s unique readerships. In New Westminster, my reading of Qayqayt Chief Rhonda Larrabee’s poem considers how creative practices contribute to social reproduction in public urban space. As an Indigenous poem in the context of a settler colonial urban landscape, this text offers up a framework for social reproduction in that it presents something at once “illegible” to capital and simultaneously necessary for quotidian capitalist production. Studying Los Angeles’ Poet’s Walk (1989-1995) as historical precedent, I put poetry at the center of a critique of economic creativity. I read the historic literary developments of close and active reading and reader response theories and the new positions for viewers that have emerged in site-specificity and institutional critiques in the visual arts into the urbanist trajectory of Creative City development. But I also see “creativity” as bound up with critiques of the monument, which I take up through Brooks and Learning from Las Vegas in Chapter Three, as well as muralism, which I analyze in the strategic implementation of street art as a gentrification strategy in Wynwood, in Chapter Four. Ending in Wynwood, I show how by performing post-industrialism or gentrification, the artistic consumer can be a central, productive figure in the creative economy without actually having to be the artist—which might represent the culmination of “creativity” as an economic model, poems be damned.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2019. Major: Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society. Advisor: John Archer. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 320 pages.

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Fedoruk, Emily. (2019). Poetry, or Elsewhere: Literature and Public Life in the Twenty-First Century. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/216401.

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