Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century

University of Chicago Press

"Perloff. . . refreshingly, doesn't blame the internet for the decline of culture or the closing of the American mind; she doesn't even think it's the death of poetry.  Hierophant of the experimental and the avant-garde, Perloff finds method in what some might see as the madness of late 20th-/early 21st-century developments like concrete poetry, Oulipian constraint, flarf (i.e. poetry made from, or written in imitation of, email spam), and even the conceptual reframing of traffic and weather reports.  The premise of her latest book, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century, is quite simple: the anchoring terms that have made a certain idea of the literary possible--genius, greatness, and originality--have failed to offer ways of understanding recent literary innovation.  This problem only increases with poetries rooted in citation, recycling, and other complex forms of mediation typical of the new digital age.  Perloff is not blind to tradition; she characterizes these new poetries as an extension of the modernist avant-garde project.  And while she rarely reaches as far back as [Harold] Bloom into literary history, she does encourage us to reconsider notions like originality and creativity, which were not literary values in the times of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare."-- Joseph Campana, Los Angeles Times Review of Books

About the Author

At Stanford Since: 1986


Marjorie Perloff teaches courses and writes on twentieth and now twenty-first century poetry and poetics, both Anglo-American and from a Comparatist perspective, as well as on intermedia and the visual arts. Her first three books dealt with individual poets--Yeats, Robert Lowell, and Frank O'Hara. She then published The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage (1981), a book that has gone through a number of editions, and led to her extensive exploration of avant-garde art movements in The Futurist Moment:Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture (1986, new edition, 1994), and subsequent books (13 in all). Wittgenstein's Ladder brought philosophy into the picture and Perloff has recently published her cultural memoir The Vienna Paradox (2004), which has been widely discussed. Her most recent book Differentials: Poetry,Poetics, Pedagogy won the Robert Penn Warren Prize for literary criticism in 2005 as well as Honorable Mention for the Robert Motherwell Prize of the Dedalus Foundation. She is a frequent reviewer for periodicals from TLS and The Washington Post to all the major scholarly journals, and has lectured at most major universities in the U.S. and at European, Asian, and Latin American universities and festivals. Perloff has held Guggenheim, NEH, and Huntington fellowships, served on the Advisory Board of theStanford Humanities Center, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is currently Scholar-in-Residence at theUniversity of Southern California. Perloff was the 2006 President of the Modern Language Association.